The Expendables was released this weekend and I had really wanted to see it. I’m an old 1980′s action flick fan, having grown up on the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallon, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and so many more, so this movie really appealed to me. Yet here it is Sunday morning and I still haven’t gone to see it. In fact I just added it to my Netflix queue and have no plans to go see it in the theater. Mainly because the typical theater trip easily costs me $30 to $50 or more if I go in the evening. Outside of a very small number of movies I’ve seen in the past few years I go to matinee showings just to keep the cost down, yet the overall cost keeps increasing year after year and the number of movies I’m willing to spend that kind of money to see in a theater decreases by the same amount. This year I’ve seen a grand total of five movies and probably will see only one or two more through the remainder of the year. If that.
Ticket prices are regularly $6-7 for matinee showings and cross over the $10-11 range for normal showings in my area, which isn’t all that expensive considering. As I said I typically go to matinee showings so my total at the box is usually around $14-15. The cost for theater entertainment dramatically increases once you’re inside the door and it has everything to do with how the movie industry has backed theater chains into a corner. Snacks. Theater chains agree to contracts with the production companies that stipulate how proceeds from box office receipts are to be split. Typically the production company will get 100% of the proceeds, or virtually so, for the first 10 to 14 days and then a smaller share of the proceeds that grows smaller each day after that. A theater makes very little, if any money directly off a movie for the first two weeks making duration very important. The longer a theater can keep a movie in-house the better but only if they can make money on it. How many movies these days are still packing in more than a hand full of viewers three or four weeks after release? Very few.
Which brings us back to snacks. Theaters use the concession stand to make the lion’s share of their money these days and that percentage has been growing for years. And the price of concessions such as popcorn and soda have grown over the years along with it. This is where the price of a night at the theater has become so expensive as it’s normal for the price of concessions to cost more than the tickets. Two popcorns and two drinks easily costs me $25, bringing my total at a matinee to $30 for just two people. Of course you could ask why buy concessions at all, as not buying them would make the trip more affordable. That’s a very valid question and a lot of people do probably skip the concessions or sneak in something to nosh on but as I usually watch TV or movies while I’m eating, like at dinner time at home, it’s just something I’m programmed to do. Even when I go to see a matinee showing, I’ll do that around lunch so popcorn and soda will be my lunch for the day. Besides, the theaters use subliminal messaging technology to turn you into a zombie and force you to come back out to the concession stand to make a purchase if you walk by at first without stopping. Honest!
Seriously, a night out at the theater usually starts or ends at a restaurant does it not? You either eat out then go see the movie or you “eat” in the theater. Either way the night is going to cost a bundle and that’s really the point. I’m making a play on the title of the movie I’d like to have seen this weekend, but I’m the one feeling expendable in this triangle of commerce. I’m left feeling like my opinion, and by extension the opinion of all those who feel as I do, doesn’t matter to either the industry or the theater chains. And so I’ve chosen more and more often to vote with my wallet. I simply choose not to go. Occasionally the industry will still get some money out of me as I’ll end up buying the DVD but even that is something I’ve done less of these past two years as I’ve found myself relying on Netflix more often. For the price of one ticket ($8.95) they send me the movies I want to see and I’m really fine with the fact that the industry has forced Netflix to agree to making me wait 28 days longer to see it. Believe me industry, I can wait.
The question I want to ask you is, if I stop going to the theater at all, can you?