The economics of Hollywood misery

The critics are blaming the films for the poor box office this year so far. While they have a point (we could always do with better films) I think they are missing the main cause- the ticket prices. At my local Cineworld, the cheapest price for my wife and I to see a film, during the afternoon, is £18. It gets rather more expensive in the evening, and then there are the usual premiums for 3D and 4D, Imax etc*. The ticket-prices can get pretty eye-watering. In some cases it could be £40+ for us both to go see a film. Which is just plain crazy. I know that it’s an evening out and alternatives can be equally or indeed more expensive, and I know Cineworld and other chains have loyalty programmes that reduces prices a little if you subscribe/spend more/go more often (it’s frankly bizarre to see cinemas getting away with doing the same direct debit/rental schtick that tv providers on cable and satellite have managed rather than just, er, stick to lower ticket prices for everybody). But really -most of the blockbusters are rubbish and hardly worth £5 a ticket. And other arthouse/indie films hardly get a look-in even at the multiplex: they’d rather have the same film doing a four-screen rotation.

£30+ for two of us to go see a movie in the evening, putting up with noisy audiences who need to chat through the film or text on their phones or check facebook/twitter or whatever the hell they are doing glued to their brightly distracting magic little screens in the dark, and those who demonstrate lousy bladder control by getting up and going to the loo during the best bits of a bloody film.

Or:  £15 to buy the film on disc and watch as many times as I like in the comfort of my own home without the moronic distractions. Or much less to just rent the thing via streaming (Life was £1.99 on Amazon Prime, which probably had something to do with me quite liking it.) Do the math Hollywood. I don’t think simply making better films is the answer. Is it a case of audiences voting with their wallets because the films are lousy or simply that it is just getting too expensive?

*(Of course, if you’re expecting audiences to cough up £9 – £21 a ticket to watch a two-hour movie, they want plenty of bang for their buck, which is no doubt why so many big loud stupid blockbusters do the rounds these days. And why even critics darling Dunkirk feels it is necessary to spray water in people’s faces and throw them around in their seats in 4D showings.)




5 thoughts on “The economics of Hollywood misery

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    Alert! Alert!

    (And I didn’t have time to find an appropriate post to put this comment on).

    VUE are doing screenings of CE3K 4K around the country on Sept 24th. I got a ticket for London. Hope you get lucky.

    1. Damn it, nowhere near me showing it. So many screens yet not a look-in. Something wrong somewhere. Guess I have to put up with watching my bluray in November (the ‘proper’ anniversary?). Thanks for the heads-up though, worth a shot.

  2. My local Odeon actually just cut prices (possibly just for the summer, but I’m hoping it’s permanent), which I think is actually the way to go — I agree entirely that this constant pushing up is just backfiring in the longer term.

    Apparently the big studios are pushing ahead with schemes that will make even big films available at home day-and-date with the theatrical release, despite objections from cinema chains. I guess Netflix really are leading the way.

  3. Matthew McKinnon

    I’m going through a crisis of cinemagoing at the moment as well.

    We’ve settled into a fairly standard routine of movie-going: for decent-looking blockbusters we’ll do the expensive route: laser IMAX 3D is the only 3D we’ll even go near because it’s the only coherent 3D setup; or, if it’s shot with actual IMAX film like Dunkirk, the genuine IMAX at Waterloo. So for tentpole movies fair enough: it costs an arm and a leg, but we’re guaranteed the best presentation.

    But I recently made a big effort on my days off to catch up with smaller independent films at the cinema, like Raw, The Beguiled, Get Out, A Ghost Story etc.

    It was a bit of a mixed bag. A combination of the mild discomfort of the cinemas themselves (a bit rundown, small uncomfortable seats, twenty-five minutes of crappy ads and deafening trailers), the bewilderingly poor image quality (I thought digital projection had solved most problems, but apparently cinema chains like Odeon and VUE don’t like to spend money replacing bulbs that often, as a lot of screenings I attended were extremely dim.

    To be honest, even though my TV is 9 years old, the image quality is still extremely good, good enough to make viewing a blu-ray a better presentation of a well-shot film. And when I’ve paid my tax bill and can save up for a new 4K setup – no time particularly soon, but on the cards – it’ll be even better. So like you I’m less and less inclined to spend around £9 on a ticket for something I’ll actually enjoy a lot more at home.

    And I have to say: the whole business of ‘supporting film’ by rushing to the cinema to catch a movie in its narrow release window is a bit childish and regressive to me. Am I not also supporting a film when I rent it, or buy it on disc? How about I wait and see what the word of mouth is from critics and friends before I rush out to catch the latest one- or two-week release? It seems like buying into a stupid lottery going along with the decades-old cinema release system, when home video allows you access to films permanently.

    1. I have often wondered if disc and digital sales should be added to the traditional box office numbers. Especially these days when cinema releases cover such a short period and home video etc can last years. Alien: Covenant was deemed a financial disappointment at the cinema but might home video make another film viable? Or might Ghost in the Shell yet get a sequel? The studios must know some people wait for the home release and you’d think that would reflect on their decisions for greenlighting future films.

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