While 2011 may have given us some great films, if you’re watching your budget, you may have chosen to save a few bucks to rent or watch on demand, rather than shell out ten dollars (plus or minus) for a movie ticket. Whether it’s due to the bad economy or cheaper alternatives, this year is being described as “the worst year for Hollywood in recent memory” as far as movie attendance goes.
Those are CNN Money’s words as stated in their article about the poor showing in ticket sales for movies in North America in 2011. The site mentions Hollywood.com as the source of their information, stating that 1.8 billion movie tickets were sold in North America this year, which is the lowest since 1995. Box office revenue was $10.2 billion, down 3.5% from last year.
Analysts say the weak economy and “expanding home entertainment options” are to blame for the drop, which is probably fairly accurate. Hollywood.com's Paul Dergarabedian also notes the rise in ticket prices, which "have jumped from $6.88 to $7.96 in just the past four years." That number seems low, but then again, ticket prices do tend to vary depending on where you live. I can't remember the last time I spent less than $8 on for a movie ticket, excluding matinees. Regardless, the cost of tickets is a notable factor.
As someone who considers a trip to the movies to be a great way to spend Friday night, it isn’t exactly easy to justify the cost these days, when you factor in a tighter budget, the high cost of tickets, and cheaper alternatives for those with the patience to wait. In my neck of the woods, a movie ticket costs $10 (more for 3D) for an adult. Factor in a drink and some popcorn and the cost of going to the movies increases even more. Double that if you're with someone you're paying for or sharing a budget with (spouse, significant other, etc).
I consider the cost of going to the movies to be a worthwhile expense for films that are likely to be good, or at the very least, moderately satisfying. There’s definitely something to be said for the movie theater experience. For those of us who love stadium seating, a bucket of overpriced, over-buttered popcorn, surround-sound and a giant screen, there’s nothing quite like it. With that said, the risk of feeling the disappointment that sets in as you leave the theater realizing you (and your movie-going partner) spent $20+ for an unsatisfying movie does create a strong argument for much more affordable alternatives (Redbox, Amazon On Demand, Netflix and even pay-cable.)
Now, if theaters would consider dropping the prices on tickets for movies in the later weeks of their releases, even by a couple of dollars, that might change the situation for more budget-conscious movie fans. Those willing to pay top dollar to see the film in its first couple of weeks of release could do so, while those on a budget could also enjoy the film in the theater at a more affordable cost, if they're willing to wait. Given the drop in ticket sales, it seems there are a lot of people out there with the patience to wait for a more affordable way to see movies these days.
What say you, movie fans? Has the economy or a tightened budget affected your movie-going habits? Do you prefer to rent to see most movies more than you used to? Or are you still visiting the theater as much as you always have?