Cinema Ticket Pricing Generates Conversation

Here at Kinomatics we’ve been thrilled by the response to a recent article in The Conversation by Bronwyn Coate and Deb Verhoeven on the issue of movie ticket pricing in Australia. The article summarises our response to the justifications for a price hike given by some of the leading figures in the exhibition business including Graham Burke from Village Roadshow and Benjamin Zeccola from Palace Cinemas.

Based on our recent research into global cinema affordability the article casts real doubt on the relevance of the arguments being put forward by industry executives, particularly in relation to the cost of piracy, the impact of high wages and falling attendances. And judging by the comments thread  in The Conversation and other syndicated outlets such as LifeHacker, Gizmodo, Delimiter and SBS news  we aren’t alone. It’s pretty clear from the discussion generated on these sites that many people feel very strongly about rising ticket prices.

In The Conversation alone, of the 30 or so comments, almost everyone identified their reasons for turning away from the cinema. Around 40% of those commenting identified high ticket prices and food prices as a factor keeping them away from the cinema. Also around a third of comments referred to the alternative entertainment that is better and more readily available as a factor why they don’t attend the cinema. Other comments focused on the behaviour of other audience members as a deterrent along with the condition and facilities associated with the cinema not being up to scratch. The imposition of online booking fees seemed to have particularly inspired the ire of some moviegoers.

This comment in particular seemed to sum up the general sentiment of much of the discussion in The Conversation:

“Those cinema chains obviously aren’t getting much value for their consultancy dollar. Almost every comment here stresses the gigantic rip-off that stops them going to see movies at theatres run by these chains, yet the consultants insist on putting the cart before the horse – that attendance is down and piracy is rampant, but this can’t have anything to do with the pricing so let’s put it up – presumably to milk the few marks remaining before they wise up.”

Just what the exhibition industry might do to address its business challenges, aside from raising ticket prices (which will only further shrink audiences), is less clear and probably deserves another article. Some commentators did have specific suggestions for the exhibitors including;

  • a two-tier pricing model “so that `blockbusters’ may become premium-price for admission at the cinema [eg might jump to say USD$25] and, `regular’ cinema fare [ie films without all the spectacle, and the technical bells-&-whistles] will perhaps be much cheaper, eg say, USD$7).”
  • “the entirely radical and also entirely-unlikely idea that cinema patrons only pay for the movie on the way out, whatever amount they felt the movie was actually worth to them personally.”
  • “How about adding party rooms seating up to say 10 people in lounges or other comfy furniture; with decent food options ordered from a proper menu; superb picture quality and sound; and most importantly movie selection on demand. Being with friends you could be noisy and talk through the movie or even leave your mobile phone on.”
  • “Surely there’s a better way to draw people back by further developing a sense of experience or distinctive event from a visit to the movies.”

What is really clear from the response to our article is that there is a significant amount of frustration arising from what is perceived to be a lack of attention by cinema operators to improving the audience experience:

“Cinema operators (like all businesses) need to evolve or die. Find a unique business proposition to replace the one you’re about to lose forever or else you disappear. No amount of complaining about piracy will change that fact.”

And again:

“Time to get the business model right, or lose the business, folks….”.

Given the interest and passion this issue seems to have stirred it is certainly something we will follow up further in our research. It is clear that the exhibition industry needs to do more to get audiences back into the cinema and equally it is clear that raising ticket prices is not a viable strategy to win back the hearts of cinema patrons. So let’s hope the exhibition industry is taking note, before it’s too late.