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Cineplexity

Jul 30 2008 Posted by in entertainment | Comments Off on Cineplexity

Tickets to off-Broadway productions cost more than those of regional theater (at the same venue). New England Patriots seats will set you back more than Buffalo Bills seats (for the same matchup, even). If you want to ride the Vominator at the local theme park, you’ll have to dig a little deeper into your pockets. So why the flat rates at the cineplex?

I propose a sliding scale based on budget. You wanna go see Superman Returns, 12 bucks. Napoleon Dynamite, three bucks. Or even on rentals, price the indie flicks cheaper than the studio ones, regardless of release date.

I’m not yet suggesting this is a viable financial model for the industry, I’m just thinking from the customer’s perspective as it compares to our other entertainment. Truth is that small movies have a hard enough time making coin as is without lowering ticket prices. But with more democratic distribution models such as downloads, the numbers could work. Because Netflix is a bargain, I feel less guilty about watching shitty films sometimes, but even if they charged per-rental on such a sliding scale, my ratio would remain about the same. And those who enjoy popcorn “event movies” won’t be deterred by higher prices, because they’re compelled by their fandom or need to get out of the house for the night.

Napoleon Dynamite brought in over 100 times its original budget. Superman Returns was a huge success yet didn’t even double its investment. Then again, its actual profit in dollars was around $185 million, while Napoleon‘s profit was more like $45 million.* You could produce 400 Napoleon-esque films for the price of one Superman. Not that there’s enough talent available to do so, or that you could get them released, or afford the exponential marketing – but just think about that for a moment as a consumer, given their entertainment value (feel free to substitute your quality indie of choice for the silly Napoleon).

These aren’t even the most extreme examples (only in the sense that your average film is nowhere near as popular as either) when you consider The Blair Witch Project made 7000 times its budget, and Spider-Man 3 cleared $600 million profit, despite being the most expensive film ever made. Clerks was produced for less than the price of my car, but launched a career, as did El Mariachi, for less than I spent on rent last year. Let’s not even go into the fact that $20 million of one movie can be swallowed by a single actor, or the similar pissing contests of ballooning pro athlete salaries. Basically, studios put nearly all their eggs into just one or two baskets – giant fucking baskets – which we refer to as the blockbuster mentality. It’s also why their smaller films don’t receive the marketing they deserve. They swing for the fence instead of the gap over the second-baseman’s head.

To summarize: I’d spend more money watching films, while slighly less per, if you made them much more affordably and only pass on a little of that savings to us.

* I didn’t figure in the costs of P&A (prints and advertising), which can be substantial, but unavailable.