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Going To The Movie Theater To Watch A Movie Is Starting To Get Too Expensive

Published 12/28/07 (Modified 3/14/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

How was your Christmas? Did you spend it all day with family and friends? Or did you manage to sneak out to watch Aliens vs. Predator like I did. Yes, I was one of those that ducked into the theaters on Christmas afternoon to watch this winter's biggest sci-fi blockbuster movie on opening day. Only this time, I was sorely disappointed. It wasn't even the movie itself either (although I thought it could have been better). It was my realization that I was paying way too much money for the opportunity to be crammed into a stuffy hot room with a crowd of noisy, obnoxious people, to watch a movie on a blurry movie screen operating on technology that probably hadn't been updated in several decades. Watching the latest movie release at the local cinema simply isn't what it used to be anymore. Why are movie tickets so expensive nowadays? Times have changed and I wonder if it's time I did so too.

Movie Theater Tickets and Concession Stand Snacks Are Outrageously Overpriced

Christmas day afternoon I went to see the new Aliens movie with my brother. Going with the Christmas spirit, I decided to pay for everything. For two expensive movie theater tickets I shelled out a total of $18 at about $9 each. Two popcorns and two small sodas tacked on another $16 for a grand total of $34 for two people. Now, if I was a father with a wife and 2 kids, and assuming everyone bought the same customary number of snacks and sodas, the approximate cost for the movie watching experience would have been a whopping $68! For what you're getting in return, can we say - much too expensive?

Movie Theater Projectors Can't Compare to New Home Television Technology

With new viewing technology coming out every day and with flat screen, LCD, and plasma television prices dropping constantly, it really doesn't make sense to spend such high sums to watch new releases on blurry movie theater projector screens anymore. I'm just starting to finally notice it, but the resolution quality of movie projector displays are terrible. Watching a dimly lit movie like Aliens vs. Predator in the theater was a major challenge as I had a hard time making out the figures and distinguishing the fight scene details that frequently moved too fast for the projection technology to keep up. It used to be that movie theaters offered the biggest and clearest screens, with the best picture quality and booming surround sound, but now this type of technology is becoming easier and cheaper to acquire for your own home entertainment system. Of course there's nothing quite like watching new releases on a super large screen, but is it really worth the inconveniences, cost, and hassles of going to the movie theater anymore? I'm starting to think not.

Other Benefits Of Watching Movies At Home and Alternatives

At the movie theater, it was my misfortune to be squished next to several obnoxious viewers, including one fellow who kept making deep burping sounds. Another girl kept flipping open her cell phone light to check her text messages and another kept walking in front of me to use the bathroom. If I was watching the movie in the privacy and comfort of my home, I wouldn't have this problem. I could go to the bathroom whenever I wanted, eat whatever snacks I fancied, and I could even watch it in my pajamas if I wanted to. Plus I wouldn't have to pay so much money for such a disappointing viewing experience.

With services like streaming movies, Comcast On Demand, Blockbuster, Netflix, and other online rental programs, it makes me wonder what will ultimately become of the movie theater viewing experience? I suppose so long as boys and girls need to date, they will need movie theaters as a public social outlet. But I think unless movie theaters start shaping up by improving their screen technology, providing more spacious seats, and lowering costs, they will eventually be usurped by cheaper and more convenient alternatives, the same way video game arcades were eventually replaced by home Nintendo's and Playstations.

I personally don't think it's the quality of the movie releases that's the biggest problem. It's the degrading viewing experience and lack of needed amenities that is leading me down the path of avoiding movie theaters altogether in the future. Why not provide extra amenities like earphone jacks and allowing viewers to bring their own headphone sets? Also, bigger is not always better - make the screen resolution higher and sharper! Why not improve the screen quality by transitioning into some type of high resolution LCD technology. Home entertainment systems can now be equipped with huge flat screen HDTV's with Blu-Ray or HD-DVD storage technology. Perhaps the cost is currently too prohibitive for them, but for the movie theater industry's sake, I hope such upgrade plans are in the works because they are likely to start losing customers like myself in the near future as we start beefing up our home television entertainment systems and stop going to the movie theater for our movie enjoyment needs.

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18 Responses to “Going To The Movie Theater To Watch A Movie Is Starting To Get Too Expensive” 

  1. Jeremy says:

    I completely agree. I don't think I've been to a movie in about 2 years. It is almost absurd to pay the going rate for a night at the cinema these days. On top of the prices you mentioned, we live in a very rural area where the closest theater is 30 miles away, a round trip is easily tacking on another 2-4 gallons of gas, which at $3 a gallon isn't chump change.

    Unfortunately my wife loves going to the movies, and I loathe it, so she only goes occasionally when a friend wants to as well. But honestly I'm fine with Netflix. I can wait a few months to just get a DVD in the mail to watch a movie when it's available. Sure, I might not be completely updated in the watercooler talk at the office about the latest blockbuster, but I won't be spending $100+ a month by spending a few hours a month catching the latest films.

  2. Raymond says:

    Hey Jeremy,

    You know, I think in the near future new movie releases are probably going to start getting released through some type of cable pay per view service the same day they are out in the theaters, except there will probably be some form of premium for the right to get it first. Similar to new electronic gadget prices when they first come out, the cost to watch it at home on opening day will probably be quite high (perhaps $30 or more) but with each passing week the price will drop substantially. This would be great for those who are currently spending a lot of money upgrading their own home entertainment systems.

  3. JB says:

    Yes, going to the movies is ridiculously expensive! I only go if I have pre bought tickets at Costco. 14.99 for two tickets in the area.

  4. Jacob says:

    Yep, I agree. I rarely go. I may see ~4 movies/year in the theatre. If I want candy for the movie I'll stop by Walgreens and pay $0.99 for it instead of the outrageous price of $5 the theatre charges.

    Seeing two movies costs the same as my 3-at-a-time Netflix subscription ($18/month). I have no problem waiting several months to see a movie. Plus, my couch is more comfortable than the movie seats. And I can pause the movie when I need to pee!

  5. Mary says:

    I completely agree! I only went to the movies three times last year and only one was really worth the money (I had a freee gift card.) Nothing can compete with my 56 inch HDTV at home. Who cares if I have to wait 6 months to see it. Beats seating behind 20 junior high kids texting on their cell phones.

  6. Raymond says:

    Whoa...6 months? Most dvds come out 1-2 months after they are released in the theaters. Besides, looking back, my best viewing experiences have always been at home.

  7. Clay says:

    Every point made in this post (and in the comments) is 100% correct, but I keep going back to the theater. I know I should be watching movies at home. It's not as though I like the crowd noise, poor picture quality, and all the other distractions. For some reason I just like the experience of going to a movie theater. It's worth the hassle to me. It seems like it shouldn't be, but I just can't help myself.

  8. mike says:

    the whole movie experience is great!!, however i went and saw Iron Man today and it cost me (for 3 people)@hazlet multiplex in jersey.. was 50.00 and i didnt get anything.. wife and kid had med. cokes and medium popcorn....... can u believe a bottled water cost 3.50.. look im no cheapskate, but as i get older i see whats "really" going on.. so i wont be going back to the theater.. i can watch movies free online, or buy it and watch without someone's big ass head blocking my view.... welcome to the USA.... you gotta love dumb ass humans....

  9. mike says:

    oh god!! i cant say anything without it being moderated.. wow! what ever happend to just free speech(and i dont mean the law)?? all i can say is i cant wait till another 40 yrs has passed...... i should be dead and loving by then.....

  10. sue says:

    Interesting comparison with the video games. I remember going to a local pizza shop with a friend to play a video game. Our other friend was not coming because she already had Atari. Soon we both had Atari also.
    Most of the small theaters have gone by the waistside due to not being able to compete with the larger movie theaters. I think that the movie theaters will remain. I have noticed that none of the movies last in the theaters very long. If you want to see a movie on the large screen you sometimes need to go in the first few weeks or it will already be gone. I agree that the ticket prices are outrageous.

  11. oldtimer says:

    I have a theatre I go to since I was 10 years old and i'm now 55 .it' run by mom and pop and the kids .3.00 a showing the snacks are cheap and the picture quality and sound is just supreme.everything is fine they don't put up with rude people.

  12. Pete says:

    I hadn't been to the movies in a long time. I stopped going three years ago when I had my first kid. Anyhow, we had grandma staying for the holidays so I figured I'd take the wife out to watch a movie. I left feeling rip off, I thought to myself, "I just paid 40 bucks for a movie, soda, & popcorn." I could of rented a DvD for $1 and gotten the snacks from the grocery store a heck of a lot cheaper.

    I don't even have the best setup. Just a 32 inch LCD 1080p and a DvD player with upscale progressive scan to make the DvDs look better. It still looks much better then the crappy projector at the movie theater. I retire from movie theaters.

  13. Betty says:

    We are a family of 5. Whenever we want to go to the movies, we try to spend as little as possible of course. We also bought our tickets at costco, which anyway adds up to $28 dls. since my toddler doesn't pay yet.
    I buy also at costco the mnm's at 7.00 for the whole 2lbs bag and make little Ziploc bags. and at the end we still have a lot of chocolate left.
    In the theater we buy the jumbo soda and jumbo popcorn for 12.00dls which you can refill as many times as you want to, (and if you ask for boxes to split the popcorn they can give you some) so before entering the theater we divide the popcorn and then fill it up again. Also if the time is permissive, and there's no too much people, we time the movies (since we go to children movies only for now) so that when the movie is over we get out take a bathroom break and go in to see another movie, since they only check your tickets at the entrance.
    so if the day is cool we get to spend $28 for tickets $12.00 for popcorn and sodas so that's a total of 40 dls for a family of 5 to watch two movies in the same day.
    Of course still expensive is in it?? But the kids love it. so we go once in a while since we have really great daughters. My husband says that we could just wait for the dvd and own it forever for much less price. But at home we only have one 27" regular tv.
    so yes, we like to save our money to pay for a house,....sometimes you do the best with your money.

  14. Another Jeremy says:

    I will never see another movie in a theater again, unless it's some kind of family obligation thing where I'm forced to.

    I'd basically crossed all the theaters in Vancouver off my list -- it doesn't take too long to realize, "Hey, I'm pretty sure this scene was supposed to take place in the daytime. And I'm pretty sure that Coca Cola label was supposed to be bright red, not dark purple...."

    Today I went to see Watchmen on the local Imax screen. Same problem for a $3 premium. Screw 'em.

  15. tracy says says:

    I dont understand why with todays technology the movie companies dont offer an instant view for a price id even pay MORE for the convenience of sitting in my own home on my couch and with out a group of teenagers checking their cell phones or yelling or fighting or making obscene remarks with my kids sitting there...i am a movie buff I LOVE TO WATCH MOVIES but i dont like the hassel or the cost or the crowds and since home theaters dont cost alot and surround sound systems are under $200.00 so worth the investment if i had an option i would not go back to the theaters......

  16. Jacquelynn Oritz says:

    I'm going to see one at an IMAX tomorrow.

  17. Jaime says:

    People like you are the reasons the film industry is struggling. The ticket prices are reasonable, to buy a DVD is $30. If you go to a movie you get the full audience experience, plus films are made to be played at that size and quality, you will never get the same feeling from your living room. As for the snacks, those are what is ridiculous, so bring your own snacks, I'm assuming most of you carry bags and have pockets?

  18. Tena McGee says:

    Nice write up. Projectors are something that the whole family can enjoy. I happen to have an Epson MovieMate in the den for the family to watch movies. It is nices with a screen but it also works on the wall.

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