Film News

How Much Do You Pay for Movie Tickets?

According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the average ticket price in the United States set a record high during the second quarter of 2016, topping out at $8.73 for the three-month period from April to June.

  • “$8.73? Yeah, that sounds about right,” says the person living in a more rural area of the country or possibly in a smallish-sized city.
  • “$8.73? Maybe in my dreams. I’m paying at least double that!,” yells the person who lives in one of the really, really big cities.
  • “What the hell do I care about ticket prices? I don’t even go to the movies anymore. Why should I? I have Netflix,” says the sensible killjoy.
That doesn’t even get into concession prices

Obviously there’s a fair bit of regional variation in price, and it only matters to you if you are someone who actually still likes going to see movies in a theater with a bunch of strangers. However, it’s a bit of a problem. A couple of years ago when attendance was down the theaters blamed the studios for, basically, making a bunch of shitty movies. The theaters countered that the movies were just fine; high ticket prices were really what kept people away. The truth, as always, was somewhere in-between.

Then Furious 7, Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens happened, and box office records fell faster than an aging rockstar off a concert stage (seriously, Steven Tyler, cut it out – you’re going to break a hip!). Don Draper gathered studio executives and theater owners together, and they held hands while singing in a Coke commercial. All was well in the world.

That was so last year. Suck it, 2015. We’re all about 2016 now, and….damn, 2016 totally sucks. So many dead rock stars and celebrities. So many disappointing movies. Civil unrest. Trumpiness reigns supreme.

Hey, 2015. I spoke too soon. Please come back!

Alas, time doesn’t work that way (not yet anyway). We are stuck in 2016, where attendance was down from April to June, yet the cost of a ticket set a record. To be more specific, Variety said, “Ticket prices increased despite the fact that the quarterly box office took a dip. Ticket sales were down more than 15% for the three-month period ending in June.”  That sounds really bad unless I also include the second part of Variety‘s quote, “Of course, the comparison was a difficult one. The second quarter of 2015 saw the release of blockbusters such as “Inside Out,” “Jurassic World” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.’”

Turns out, if you have two of the highest-grossing films of all time in one quarter and then don’t replicate that in the same quarter a year later ticket sales are going to suffer. Huh. Here’s another picture from The Majestic:

Majestic (Left-Right) Jeffrey DeMunn and Jim Carrey © Warner Brothers International TV
Fun fact: In 1951, when The Majestic is set, the average cost of a movie ticket was $0.53.

Overall, attendance from January-July is down -0.5% compared to 2015. However, ticket prices are 1.4% more expensive than they were a year ago, possibly inflated by the staggering number of IMAX, 3D and premium format releases.

Out of curiosity, I looked at BoxOfficeMojo‘s breakdown of the average ticket price per year from 1910 to the present. It took 55 years for the average ticket price to rise above $1. That happened in 1965. In the time since then, it only took 48 years to rise above $8, which happened in 2013. A short three years later it’s creeping close to $9.

That seems bad, right? It’s hard for me to tell anymore because I no longer pay to see movies, at least individually. Ever since last Thanksgiving, I’ve been a MoviePass subscriber, which allows me to see as many 2D movies as I want for a monthly fee of $30. Without it, I’d be paying $7.00 for any matinees and $10 for evening screenings, as per my local theater’s standard prices.

Here’s one last picture from The Majestic:

The-MajesticWhat’s your ticket price (in any currency and from any part of the world) looking like these days? I might have asked that question in the past. If so, has the price gone up since last we spoke (via the comments section)? How much does it cost you to escape into glorious air-conditioned darkness, and how often do you have to tell people to turn off their damn cell phones already? Have you encountered any Pokemon Go players just walking through the theater in the middle of a movie? If so, what did you do?

Source: Variety


  1. It really depends…a big blockbuster movie in 3D in one of the major theatres on a Weekend costs something between 12 and 14 Euro, but there are a number of options to get it cheaper. You can go on one of the cheaper showings under the week, you can pick the last row of the cheaper seats, you can wait a little bit and then watch it in one of the smaller theatres, in short, if you are smart you can watch a movie on a decent screen and a good seat for only 5 Euro.

    1. Oh, and concerning the way people behave in theatres: I honestly don’t get what the American audience is doing. I have never seen a child in a movie for adults in Germany, if for no other reason than that the theatre would most likely refuse to sell the ticket, and the last time I have seen a phone brighten up the theatre was before the movie started, and it was done by the people in the row behind us to help us out finding our seat because someone had forgotten to turn on the light in the theatre and we couldn’t read the numbers and hadn’t had our owns phones readily available.

  2. In Australian dollars and with notes:
    The Thing (1982): $14.20
    Escape from New York & They Live: Retro double-bill $17 ($2.50 booking feed)
    Hunt for the Winderpeople with all you can eat vegetarian buffet: $38.60
    Dune: Retro cinema $11.30
    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: $16.20 (with cinema membership discount)
    45 Years with all you can eat vegetarian buffet: $23.10
    The Never Ending Story: $12
    Lady in the Van: $16.20 (with cinema membership discount)
    Trumbo: $19
    Brooklyn: $16.20 (with cinema membership discount)
    The Big Short: $16.20 (with cinema membership discount)
    Wake in Fright: $11.75 (with presenters who had discovered one of the last copies of the film)

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