Hidden Increase in Ticket Prices for Blockbuster Films Exposed

Tara McCamley investigates the hidden increase in ticket prices for certain popular films and the reasons behind the cost differences



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If you found yourself a part of the hundreds of thousands of cinema goers that flocked to the cinemas to see Black Panther – Marvel’s latest installment to their superhero universe – then you may have noticed something interesting about the price of your ticket, or perhaps you didn’t.

Black Panther is a part of an ever-growing trend of films classed as premium by cinemas and studios. In layman’s terms, the prices of these tickets are more expensive for customers than a regular film as studios are charging cinemas more in order to be able to show them.

How are they able to do this you ask? Well, the economics of how a cinema runs are complicated. Essentially film companies lease films to cinemas for a certain amount of time in order to screen them. As a result of this, the majority of the profits from ticket sales don’t actually go to the cinema but rather go directly to the film companies.

On average it is estimated that 60% of the profits from ticket sales go back to the film companies with cinemas making very little profit from the films they show.

Due to this agreement and to the declining number of people attending the cinema, for big budget tent poles and films that are expected to be a smash – both in terms of box office and critical success – studios have been demanding more and more of the ticket profits in the initial few weeks, resulting in increased ticket prices for the general public for the first two weeks of the films release.

So how much is this going to set the average consumer back? I looked at the film ticket prices in seven different cinemas and chains in Dublin and on average the tickets for Black Panther were one euro more expensive than a non premium film. For example if an adult were to buy a ticket for the film Den of Thieves in an Odeon cinema that ticket would cost €13, as opposed to a ticket for Black Panther which costs €14. It is important to note not all cinemas are putting this markup into effect with both IMC cinemas – for example the Savoy – and Cineworld having the same price for all films, on the other end of the scale the Movies@ chain have a €1.70 mark up on their tickets for Black Panther.

This is not the first time Disney has demanded more out of theatres for playing their films. In December for the release of the highly anticipated and successful Star Wars: The Last Jedi they charged cinemas 65% of the ticket profits and demanded for the film to be played in their largest screens for the first four weeks of its release, failure to comply would have resulted in their take of the profits being hiked up to 70% according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

Cinemas cant say no to these terms as they need to turn a profit and with films like Black Panther boasting an 94% audience anticipation score on Rotten Tomatoes before its release and smashing presale tickets records in the United States. Refusing the studios terms and choosing not to show the film would be a terrible business choice and likely would result in more and more closures of cinemas due to lack of business.

So how can customers protect themselves from these increased prices? The price rises are only in effect for the first two weeks of the films release, however for the majority of film fans that’s not an ideal fix. Instead you can shop around and see which cinemas offer you a raised rate and which don’t, or you can go on days that already offer special prices making the raise less of a concern as you’re already paying less for the ticket.

The price rises cannot be helped, it’s the fault of the studios not the cinemas and its highly unlikely they’re willing to lower their demands anytime soon. However being aware of the increase is half the battle and something to be aware of in the future when you take in the latest blockbuster, and the price that’s being paid by the cinema industry as it gets put under more and more pressure from the studios it benefits.

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