Economics of Movies, Part I

movie-tickets-popcornI recently saw a segment of Clark Howard on the news where he discussed how much money can be saved by getting rid of cable. He suggested by getting Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime you could save a ton of money and get a better selection of shows. I think the same could be said about watching movies. I remember 10 years ago, I went to around 15 movies a year, probably more. On top of that, I would rent movies 2 at a time at the video store at least twice a month. Now my habits have dropped to next to nothing. I still see movies but not at the same frequency. There has been a major dent in my movie going habits. People who know me would say that is what happens when you have children. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So what has happened in the last few years to curtail my interest? The cost of going to movies has outweighed the quality of the movie going experience. Take the closest movie theater to where I live. I have all but stopped going there. Two of the last three times I went there people were talking and texting throughout the movie. It was so bad I finally spoke up and said something during the middle of the movie. I was there last week, and it looks like they started taking this seriously.

Now lets take a look at the financial costs of attending the movIe. First there is the cost of the tickets that have went up a significant amount in the last 7 years. I don’t even consider going to shows at night anymore. Then there is the cost of driving there. With the rising cost of gas in the last few years, the distance I drive is a major consideration. The closest movie theater is over 12 miles away. That is like a $5 surcharge. The next closest movie theater is probable twice the distance. Ok, well, I admit that I do live in the boonies, but when I lived in the city, I had two movie theaters and one discount movie theater within an 8 mile radius, probably closer.

ar8n1bu3oc6mo4am5ef1Of course most people’s major complaint is the cost of the snacks. I think most moviegoers have figured out their own solution to this problem. Major chains need only to look at the closest drug store and gas stations for a big clue. There is a good reason why you can conveniently find theater sized boxes of candy at the Walgreens just down the block. Also in this health conscious society, does anyone need a 3 pound box of Sprees?

I am not sure who came up with this plan, but now most movies are released to DVD within 6 months. Last summer’s blockbusters are now available for less than the cost for 2 people to go to the movie. Unless you are single, this may save you a few bucks. At least by the time the DVD is released, you know if it is worth purchasing or renting.

If you willing to forgo seeing the movie a little longer, you can rent these movies at Redbox for just a little over a dollar. The last time I went, I was tempted to rent 3 movies, even though it was 8 o’clock at night, and I had to work the next day. So lets think about this, you can rent a movie every night for about the same cost as seeing 18 films a year. That is a few more than I used to see a year, but I am not sure if there are that many worth seeing. Ok, that came out wrong. Let’s just say there are 8-10 films a year that you might would pay full price to see. Then there are an additional 4-5 that you would go to with a friend or a date. There are plenty of other films that come out that you might enjoy, but you are not going to pay full price to see. For the cost of Redbox, you can afford to take a chance on some flicks you might not see otherwise. No name actors? No problem, for the same price you pay for a drink at the movies you can get 3 movies and give them all a chance or just get one, with snacks and a drink.

imax-theater-interiorPart of the allure of going to the movies was that it was projected on a widescreen. Now most people have a widescreen hanging in their living room or den. So what about IMAX? Is there a reason why you should pay more money to see a movie that is projected in the same aspect ratio as the 37 inch CRT sitting in the corner of your basement? Don’t believe me? check it out: IMAX has a aspect ratio of 1.44. This is a lot closer to the aspect ratio of your standard definition set of 1.33 than your new plasma with 1.78 aspect ratio. So now you can set up your own IMAX home theater in your basement.

Surround sound is nice, but if you don’t have it at home, you really should. There are plenty of good TV shows that take advantage of surround. Why not have this experience at home?

3d? We will be able to have it at home soon enough. Until then if there is a movie that takes advantage 3d go see it at the movies. I am not going to see Twilight in 3d anytime soon, but if the right movie came out sure.

redboxBack to my original point, if you are willing to wait 7 months to a year you can save a ton on money on seeing movies by waiting until they show up in Redbox, on Netflix, or even on cable. Gone are the days of waiting several years to see film at home. Until the movie industry drops the prices to a reasonable level or does like Disney and puts their good movies in the “Vault” for a couple of years attendance is going to decline. Don’t get me wrong I like going out to see movies. Maybe not on the opening weekend but I don’t think the experience is worth the cost anymore. There was a movie I wanted to see last month. I could still see it now, in the small theaters toward the back at least twice a day, but I know I can buy it in March for less the cost of going. On top of that It will be on Blu Ray with extras and a digital copy to put on my phone. My advice: take the money you are saving buy a bigger TV, a comfy couch, and the beverage of your choice, invite a few friends over and enjoy. I can’t wait for next holiday season so I can buy a 80 inch 3d LCD on Black Friday for $300, until then I will just have to put up with seeing everything on my home IMAX.

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