It’s been nearly two years since the nation’s movie theaters lost their two most valued assets: movies and moviegoers. The pandemic all but emptied the country’s multiplexes, and they still haven’t gotten back in step. A movie about not one but three web-slingers aside, every would-be blockbuster has either dramatically underperformed or outright bombed. The long-delayed The Batman may be another Spider-Man: No Way Home, box office-wise, but just in case it isn’t, one major theater chain seems to be taking some precautions.
As per Entertainment Weekly, AMC Theatres, the nation’s biggest chain, is experimenting with what is called “variable pricing.” That involves charging different prices for different films, depending on the demand. In this case, AMC will force adults (not children) an extra $1.50 to watch Robert Pattinson battle gritty versions of The Penguin and The Riddler.
This is far from unprecedented. As AMC CEO Adam Aron pointed out during an earnings call, the chain has been doing it for years in other countries. “Indeed, in Europe, we charge a premium for the best seats in the house,” he said, “as do just about all other sellers of tickets in other industries — think sports events, concerts, and live theater, for example.”
In fact, some chains have already started charging more for weekend screenings. Doing it for all screenings of what will surely be a ridiculous money-gobbler, even at three hours plus ads and previews, was for them a no-brainer. (Of course, you can avoid paying ever-so-slightly more by being an AMC Stubs member and making The Batman one of your month’s three complimentary movies.)
Does this mean movies — long the least pricey of public entertainment options, providing relatively cheap dates and inexpensive family nights-out lo these last many decades — could be edging ever closer to a more elitist mindset, like sporting events and the finer arts? Maybe, but not quite yet.