Theaters Charging More For 'The Batman' Tickets Is A Bad Sign For All Of Us
The Batman is finally here, which is obviously great news for comic book fans and aficionados of greasy hunks of bat-shaped pizza-like food. But it turns out that going to see the much-anticipated new release may cost you slightly more at AMC theaters due purely to the fact that it's an acclaimed movie people are really excited to see and not, say, Jared Leto's Spider-Man-less vampire cosplay extravaganza.
According to Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC Entertainment, the theater chain is experimenting with "variable pricing." This means that the cost of a ticket to see The Batman at an AMC location this weekend is "slightly higher" than for other movies, seemingly around $1 more – kind of like a tax you pay to not see Channing Tatum's militaristic Turner & Hooch remake.
While cinemas have obviously been hit hard during the past two years, movie theater chains were already going down this road well before the pandemic. In 2017, Regal announced plans to test an "alternative pricing model," and in 2019, AMC tinkered with a surcharge of between "50¢ and $1.50" for films "of the highest appeal."
On the one hand, this makes a certain amount of sense; after all, why would they charge the exact same admission fee for an action blockbuster which cost $200 million to produce as they do a $10 million dollar mob movie starring John Travolta in an unconvincing wig? And, to be honest, The Batman is probably worth even more than the additional buck difference between it and competition like Blacklight, yet another movie in which Liam Neeson is an elite government agent trying to protect his family, presumably to the enjoyment of dads everywhere.
But the egalitarian nature of the movies is a big part of its charms. No film is more intrinsically valuable than the other because it's the audience who ultimately gets to decide its worth. Movie theaters are already charging some premiums, but always due to some kind of physical "upgrade" -- comfier seats, a larger screen, the privilege of being shaken around like a can of paint while a fog of pure stink is blasted in your face. But here the theater is raising the price purely because this particular movie is more in demand than others – which is a problem.
For one thing, it seems likely that this trend could only further diminish the potential value of non-franchise films to theatres and studios, which, unless you would have preferred that The Power of the Dog was all about Jonah Hex, just plain sucks. And even for non-cinephiles who are only interested in tentpole blockbusters, this could lead to trouble in the long run. Like, what if the majority of ticket prices stay the same, but the newest Avengers movie costs you $50 because it's a "premium" experience? That's pretty much what Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted.
And while this strategy was seemingly devised to financially rescue troubled theaters, it also has the potential to do the exact opposite. A 2015 poll found that the number one reason why people don't go to the movies often is that "ticket prices are too high." Today, when so many people have become accustomed to watching new movies at home, it kind of seems like a bad time to randomly jack up the prices.
You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter!
Top Image: Warner Bros.