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Regal testing surge based movie pricing (1 Viewer)

Josh Steinberg

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This sounds almost like a strategy for Regal to get the Moviepass-type benefits without officially joining up with Moviepass.

I think the theater chains will kill Moviepass when they have the chance to. For those unfamiliar with the details behind the $10/month unlimited theatrical viewing service, right now, Moviepass is using investors money to pay the full price of tickets when you go. Their plan is do this for a couple years, lose a ton of money, and then convince theaters to subsidize them and take the loss or threaten that their customers will never pay for a movie again. It's essentially blackmail. And I can't imagine that the theaters will give in. Even if it wound up being good for them in the long run, the service is being so antagonistic, and frankly, is so undervaluing what a ticket needs to be priced at for the industry to survive, that they won't be able to support it.

So this seems like an alternative to going along with Moviepass.

Here's my concern, which I've mentioned in several threads about big box office events. Disney, this year, has started a policy where for their biggest tentpoles, the first showing is set an hour or more before all of the other showings, and a premium price is being charged for it. For the live action Beauty And The Beast, it was $35 a ticket. For the upcoming Thor 3, it's $30 a ticket. For the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it's either $35 or $40. They call these things "fan events" and throw in a free poster, but they're essentially leveraging fan demand for extra dollars. So you can pay $40 to see The Last Jedi at 6pm, or you have to wait until 7pm to pay the regular ticket price.

I think that's all a test, leading to something like this.

I really don't think Regal or anyone else will actually lower prices substantially for non-peak showtimes or non-premium film experiences. I think this will be more like what happened in the concert ticket industry - my entire childhood and teenage years, all tickets to all shows were basically priced face value at a first-come, first-served flat rate. Then, they figured out that scalpers can charge hundreds or thousands for a single ticket, so why shouldn't they do that themselves? So the prices for the most desirable seats and the most desirable shows went way up. But the less desirable shows, and the worst seats didn't really come down.

I can imagine a future where if you want to see the latest blockbuster, the newest franchise picture, whether it's the new Star Wars or Marvel movie or Batman movie or whatever, the price will be jacked up. It's not that hard to imagine theaters leveraging a title like Star Wars (particularly when the last of the current trilogy comes out in 2019, which will probably smash box office records again), and saying, "OK, you want to see the first Star Wars show? That's $100. Want to see it opening night? That's $75. Want to see it opening weekend? That's $50. Want to see it in the first week or second weekend? That's $30. But if you're willing to wait until 9am on a Tuesday four weeks after it comes out, that's only $10."

For better or worse, the only movies that consistently make a dent in the box office these days are franchise pictures. It makes sense. The cost of going to a movie keeps going up and up, while the cost of watching a movie at home keeps going down, while the quality of home viewing keeps getting better, and the wait time between the theater and the home gets shorter and shorter. It's the same thing that happened with live theater on Broadway: for how much it costs to go, it's only financial viable for most people if they can be reasonably sure, in advance, that they'll enjoy the show. If you can only afford to see one play a year, or half a dozen theatrical movie screenings in a year, you don't want to waste one on something you won't like or that doesn't seem to justify the expense. Tentpoles are an easy answer to that question. We know what we're getting with Star Wars, we know it looks good on a big screen, and we know we like it. We don't know that about the new (non-tentpole) Spielberg picture. I mean, yeah, that newspaper thing has Tom Hanks in it, and we like Hanks, but it looks like it takes place in office buildings and stuff, so like, won't it be just as good at home?

So I dunno... if this was done in a way that was meant to be consumer friendly, I'm all for it, but I think that the endgame here is to charge $50 or more for a single tentpole ticket. For years, their business model has been "We'd rather run the film to a completely empty house than sell a single discounted ticket." I don't see that mindset, that 100% of nothing is better than 10% of something, changing in this industry.
 

Clinton McClure

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Going to the movies finally got to be such a terrible experience that I stopped going and just rent new releases from Redbox now. I grew weary of paying constantly rising ticket prices just so I could be annoyed for two and a half hours while having the back of my chair kicked, seeing an ocean of bright cell phone screens, and listening to a random infant screaming at the top of their lungs. I refuse to participate any longer.
 

EricSchulz

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For someone like myself that rarely, if ever, goes to the "tentpole" movies if they helped subsidize smaller, independent/foreign films I'm all for it. However, I don't think that's how it will end up working. And I agree with Clinton about the current state of the moviegoing "experience"...
 

Josh Steinberg

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Eric, sadly, I agree. I think they'll use this to boost the ticket price for opening weekend of Star Wars, not to lower the price of Wednesday night art house titles.
 

Chris Will

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I think the theater chains will kill Moviepass when they have the chance to. For those unfamiliar with the details behind the $10/month unlimited theatrical viewing service, right now, Moviepass is using investors money to pay the full price of tickets when you go. Their plan is do this for a couple years, lose a ton of money, and then convince theaters to subsidize them and take the loss or threaten that their customers will never pay for a movie again. It's essentially blackmail. And I can't imagine that the theaters will give in. Even if it wound up being good for them in the long run, the service is being so antagonistic, and frankly, is so undervaluing what a ticket needs to be priced at for the industry to survive, that they won't be able to support it.

I know you hate MoviePass but, why do you keep posting stuff like this without linking to anything that supports your theory? I've read a number of interviews with the CEO where he has stated that there plan, when the investor money runs out, is to sell the data that there app collects from you. This is why a data mining firm owns a majority stake in MP. There is huge money in selling data so I could see it working but, I can also see it failing big time. I also wouldn't be surprised if what you say happens, I just haven't seen any evidence of it so far, yet you talk as if it is a fact.

So, you are against services like MP and against higher prices. What would you like to see happen because one thing is for sure, change is coming whether we like it or not?

I agree with the the rest of your post, that this is the beginning of skyrocketing prices for franchise blockbusters. I know these "fan events" are selling out for now but, people will stop going if every blockbuster is $30-40. If Regal really does lower the price for smaller films or "flops", I still don't think people will go. I think in this day and age they'd rather wait for those films to show up in Netflix, Hulu or cheap iTunes rentals.

I honestly have no idea what the answer is but, I plan on enjoying MP for as long as it last. I've seen 8 movies in the first month with MP, in the previous 8 1/2 months of 2017, I saw only 4 movies. All the movies I've seen with MP were ones I would have never paid full price to see. In one month I've seen almost as many movies as I've seen in the last 2 years combined so, MP has succeeded in increasing my attendance. Is it helping or hurting the industry, I don't know but, I sure am enjoying it.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I know you hate MoviePass but, why do you keep posting stuff like this without linking to anything that supports your theory? I've read a number of interviews with the CEO where he has stated that there plan, when the investor money runs out, is to sell the data that there app collects from you. This is why a data mining firm owns a majority stake in MP. There is huge money in selling data so I could see it working but, I can also see it failing big time. I also wouldn't be surprised if what you say happens, I just haven't seen any evidence of it so far, yet you talk as if it is a fact.

I'll try to find the link again, but I don't think anything I've said is without evidence. The CEO did an interview with Deadline, and he said that the plan was to subsidize this at a loss for a couple of years, and then go to the theater chains and "make a deal". That right now, the theaters didn't want to deal with them, but in a couple years, they'd have enough customers that the theaters would have to sit down to talk. That's what the guy said. To me, it reads as blackmail.

In the interest of full disclosure, as I mentioned on the Moviepass thread, I signed up for it. I've used it a couple times so far. It's been so long since I regularly attended a non-premium showing at a multiplex that it was really an eye-opening experience. What the theaters in my neighborhood are giving you for a regular ticket price - $16 here - just isn't worth what they're asking.

It's not that I hate the concept of a Moviepass; I don't like the way this company is going about it. The people who founded this are responsible for Netflix and Redbox. They say they innovated the DVD industry. I'd say they killed it. Now, that's not to say that that industry didn't need a shakeup or couldn't or shouldn't have looked at new ideas as well as old, but well, now we don't get nice things anymore. If you look at the effort that went into the average DVD 10-15 years ago, nevermind the super deluxe special editions, and look at what's going into a new BD or UHD, it's not even close. The quality and quantity of disc supplements is generally way down, and that's because companies like Redbox and Netflix made the discs virtually worthless. They didn't "save" physical media, they nudged it along on the way to the grave. So I'm wary that when they talk about "improving" movie theaters, that they're simply going to speed along the end of theatrical exhibition rather than preserving it.

So, you are against services like MP and against higher prices. What would you like to see happen because one thing is for sure, change is coming whether we like it or not?

I'm honestly not sure what my recommendation would be at this point, because it's becoming apparent to me that the things I value in theatrical presentation aren't cared about by the majority of the audience attending. I'm realizing that every time I go out, whether it's to a movie, a play, or a concert, that I'm there for a vastly different reason than most of the other people going. And that's not to say that I'm 100% right or that they're 100% wrong.

I think the theaters have shot themselves in the foot with years of price increases with little to show for the consumer. I think they may have passed the point of no return years ago, when they started charging extra for 3D. In my opinion, 3D should have been provided free of charge as a way to make the theatrical experience stand out from what people got at home. I think the biggest problem was that they viewed 3D as a way to make extra money, when it should have been about giving the audience a reason to come out and get something special that was hard to get elsewhere. And if you're charging an audience an extra $5-10 a ticket for 3D, they're going to be critical of whether or not it's worth extra money. That, in turn, puts pressure on the filmmakers to deliver a certain type of 3D experience, whether or not it fits with the film, or forces the studio to add a 3D component when one wasn't intended. That's also around the same time studios started charging for other bells and whistles, when they began making their own custom, so-called "premium large format" screens that showed the same copy of the movie as regular screens but on a slightly larger screen in the same complex. Back in the day, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who tried to figure out which screens in the multiplex were the larger ones and tried to get in to those -- now, you don't have to figure it out, they'll make it easy by charging more.

But the thing is, every screen should have been upgraded to "premium".

They should have invested in themselves then, instead of trying to play catch-up now.

We're also being conditioned to see a movie in its first weekend - first night if at all possible. If there's a movie you want to see and you wait until the second weekend, it's almost guaranteed that it'll be gone from the best screens. So movies pretty much get one week, maybe two, to make their impact before they're gone. And everyone is trying to hit the same bullseye, so the competition is brutal, which fractures the audience. I like superhero movies, a lot, and even I'm getting a little fatigued.

On the studio's side, they killed the mid-budget movie. Now, everything is basically a no-budget indiefest, or a $100 million crowd pleaser. When someone tries to bring back the mid-budget movie, it usually falls victim to "I can wait for the video." When someone tries to make a really offbeat $100 million movie, the audience usually rejects it. But, for whatever reason, companies like Blumhouse are able to make these little horror and thriller movies for less than $5 million each, and they end up grossing $100 million. But it's another example of the all-or-nothing mentality.

I agree with the the rest of your post, that this is the beginning of skyrocketing prices for franchise blockbusters. I know these "fan events" are selling out for now but, people will stop going if every blockbuster is $30-40. If Regal really does lower the price for smaller films or "flops", I still don't think people will go. I think in this day and age they'd rather wait for those films to show up in Netflix, Hulu or cheap iTunes rentals.

I think we're already heading into a territory where the number of huge hits broken into a small period can't cover the entire year's overhead. If the movie business is only viable for three weekends in May, another two or three in June, one or two in July, and maybe one in August, plus a week or two in December, that can't be survivable. Theaters physically take up a lot of space, need specialized buildings, and have fixed costs like rent and labor. If the industry makes most of its revenue for the year over about eight weekends, how can it be affordable to keep the building open for 52 weeks?

I don't think the audience is coming back. Five years ago, I thought I'd be at the movies forever. Now, I've got an HD projector that often is more pleasing than what's at the regular multiplex screens. The 3D on it looks, to my eyes and my wife's eyes, better and is more comfortable than IMAX 3D or RealD 3D. Since it's already paid for, it's essentially "free" to use. I can buy a single new release Blu-ray for the same or less than a single 2D ticket costs. At home, I never have to deal with a technical issue that the theater doesn't understand how to address, or audience disruptions that the theater refuses to address. I can pay $5 to stream a movie that looks almost as good as a disc, and if I didn't care about the morality behind it, I could pay nothing and illegally download a movie and not get caught and actually have an easier time doing that than streaming legally. To say nothing of the hassle of going out and all that entails, and adhering to someone else's schedule instead of your own. If people are satisfied watching movies on an iPhone, a standard movie theater screen isn't going to lure them back at any price.

So I think the question is - is there a price that Disney or whoever else can charge for those tentpoles that will make those eight or twelve weeks of good business subsidize the rest of the year when nothing's happening?

I really don't know where any of this is going, but it's hard for me not to be worried about the theatrical exhibition business long-term. I don't think Moviepass is the cause of any of these problems, and I don't think Regal's dynamic pricing in and of itself is all bad, but I think developments like those will speed up the already-in-progress decline.

Here's wondering what the presentation standards would be like at a $5 Regal showing. One of the last times I saw a movie at Regal for a full price premium experience, $24 a ticket, there were major presentation issues which they didn't care to address or didn't know how to address. If they're not willing to fix a problem on a $24 ticket, is there any chance at all that they'd do anything for a $5 ticket? And, if you as an audience member experience enough issues on a consistent basis, will you keep coming back?

I don't mean to be all doom and gloom - I genuinely don't - but I don't know how this ends well.
 

Colin Jacobson

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Eric, sadly, I agree. I think they'll use this to boost the ticket price for opening weekend of Star Wars, not to lower the price of Wednesday night art house titles.

A) "Last Jedi" tickets already on sale
B) "Regal is reportedly set to begin testing the model in early 2018"...
 

Josh Steinberg

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A) "Last Jedi" tickets already on sale
B) "Regal is reportedly set to begin testing the model in early 2018"...

I meant "Star Wars" as a placeholder for all tentpole films - not specifically The Last Jedi. In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that Episode IX could be the movie that Disney tries to really up the price for. If you want to see the first showing of Last Jedi, that's $35-40 instead of whatever a regular ticket is in your neighborhood. One can imagine that they'll have even more leverage to raise prices for the last film of the new trilogy.

As for Regal, I think they'll end up surging prices for in demand showings and titles rather than lowering prices for things in less demand. That's how it works in the concert ticket industry. I could see this being a thing like those Uber surges, where the more people want to see a movie, the higher the ticket prices go. I don't think theaters will swing too far in the other direction of lowering prices significantly for less in demand films.
 

Josh Steinberg

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The only way this plan works is if the other major chains adopt it as well.

Otherwise people would just flock to AMC or other chains for the "expensive movies"...

I suspect once one theater chain starts trying it, all of the chains will. The same way everyone adopted 3D surcharges together, and the same way all major chains within several months of each other began installing their own so-called proprietary "premium large format" auditoriums to compete with IMAX. AMC has been hemorrhaging money, I think they'd be very happy to join in and experiment with anything that might stop the bleeding.
 

Jesse Skeen

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The only way this would do any good is if they kept the highest prices at their current level (which honestly are too high) and lowered the prices for the smaller or less popular movies. The prices for movies shown on the smaller screens (some of which are hardly bigger than what I have at home) should also drop. There is NO movie I would pay a premium for, not even Star Wars, to see right away- I could easily wait a year or more if I had to in order to not pay through the nose for it.

MoviePass sounds like a good deal, but there honestly aren't any theaters in my area that I would want to go to often. If I paid for MoviePass I would want to see as many movies as I had the time for, but spending that much time in the theaters here would be more of a chore when instead I could be watching things at home with my cats. I've always said if there were a REALLY good theater nearby I would try to go to it every week regardless of what was showing, but nothing's even come close to that. With new theaters having native 1.85 screens and showing scope movies letterboxed without even any masking, it isn't much better than what I can get at home.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I suspect once one theater chain starts trying it, all of the chains will.
I would guess that the reason Regal announced this so far ahead of time was:
a) As a trial balloon. If the response was overwhelmingly negative from distributors, they'd quietly scrap it.
b) To put the other exhibition chains on notice, so that the negotiations can begin for them to all roll it out at the same time.

Matinee pricing and regular pricing is the only surge pricing I need.
 

Vic Pardo

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There are certain movies they'd have to PAY me to see. When they start offering to do that, I'll listen...:rolleyes:
 

Brian Kidd

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Netflix didn't kill DVD extras. Streaming and customers killed DVD extras. Those extras cost money. I wish I could remember the article, but I had read that, when surveyed, most people said they never watched them. They were only ever there because studios thought they enticed people to purchase the discs. Well, they enticed film fans, but we're in the minority. Most people don't care. Once streaming became viable, the average person stopped buying discs. Again, even less incentive for the studios to spend money on supplements. You still see them on boutique label releases because those are primarily purchased by film fans who actually are more likely to purchase a release if it has quality supplements. We also tend to pay more for these releases and don't complain too much.

As far as surge pricing goes, I'll just continue to use MoviePass until it dies and then stop going to the theaters. I had already decreased my attendance to a few times a year, simply because I could rarely justify the cost unless I was almost certain the film would be worthwhile. I love movies. I watch them all the time. I'm not made of money, however, and the current prices are ridiculous.

Don't get me started on the cost of a Broadway show these days.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Netflix didn't kill DVD extras. Streaming and customers killed DVD extras.

I would make the argument that Netflix (especially as a streaming service) was part of this equation. For a brief shining moment, buying a DVD was the most convenient way to get a release, and a lot of people who had never purchased movies before (and would basically never purchase them) got onboard the DVD bandwagon. The combination of price, convenience and selection were all at the sweet spot. This surge in purchasing justified the continued and evolving creation of great special editions.

But when DVD rental by mail, Redbox, and especially streaming because just as easy if not easier than buying a disc, offering instant gratification at a fraction of the price, that was it with purchasing. The majority of people who never made a hobby of collecting movies on VHS (outside of maybe a favorite classic or Disney movies for the kids) went back to not collecting movies.

I'd certainly also argue that ownership of films has never been the norm, and that sweet spot of affordability and availability on DVDs messed with the numbers for a while, inflating them to what we know now was an unsustainable number. And maybe if streaming had never come out, if the disc wasn't completely devalued by an $8 monthly streaming subscription and "so-easy-your-8-year-old-can-show-you-how-to-do-it illegal downloading" options, maybe things would be different.

I understand why lavishly produced extras no longer exist. I mourn their demise. I don't think every single film needs them, and I think a lot of stuff being produced for new releases at the time was less than compelling because the people working on those features were too close to the original production and they felt more like marketing promos. But on the flip side of that, the Bond movies all include these incredible half-hour documentaries on each title and other similar films that have stood the test of time included features that celebrated those legacies, and I love those. I can do without elaborate special features for Transformers 5, but I'm sad that other titles aren't getting the attention they might have ten years ago.
 

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