By Jeff Girod
“Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe $100, maybe $150,” said director George Lucas recently at a film panel in Los Angeles. “What you’re going to end up with is fewer theaters, bigger theaters, with a lot of nice things.”
It’s already happening: Paramount Pictures recently experimented with selling $50 “mega tickets” to the premiere of World War Z. In addition to the thrill of seeing yet another over-priced Brad Pitt movie, mega ticket suckers, er “buyers,” also got to see World War Z two days before its official release.
Mega ticket buyers were also promised a fancy-shmancy HD copy of the film as soon as it’s released on Blu-ray, a pair of 3-D glasses, a movie poster and small popcorn. (For $50, you think they could’ve sprung for the medium.)
“Fans who are really passionate,” said Regal’s Chief Marketing Officer Ken Thewes, are the type who would pay extra to see it early and would be interested in owning the film as well, according to US News & World Report. “Let’s try to get them right away,” Thewes said, by offering the total experience in a single purchase.
Translation: Some people will buy anything if you put the word “mega” in front of it or dress it up with a fluorescent sticker. The good news is apparently your $150 movie ticket will come with a bunch of crappy souvenirs that will end up at your next garage sale.
Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List were great movies, but I don’t need the souvenir mug. And if I want a Blu-ray copy, I’ll buy it on Amazon for about one-third the retail price. But as a rule I like to see a movie before I buy a timeless keepsake to remember it by. It’s like arranging all your vacation photos in an album before you take the trip to Hawaii.
It’s why infomercials always try to sell you with “act now” or “be one of the first 10 callers.” They want to you reach for your credit card before you reach for your common sense. And before you have time to really add up how much money is included in “six easy payments” of $39.95. Sometimes a blender is just a blender.
If a movie is good enough to stand on its own merit, movie studios shouldn’t have to combine the ticket price with a souvenir poster, popcorn and advanced DVD. And since when is anyone charging for 3D glasses? What’s next—an extra $10 for cup holders?
A good 60-inch TV costs under $1,000 so you can have a theater experience in your living room. The acoustics are better. The parking is free. Your fridge and bathroom are within arm’s reach.
When my next child is born, then eventually graduates and gets married, I’m going to ask him to either do it all in my living room or televise it via satellite. I’m also going to expect someone to be selling Junior Mints.
Watching movies at home is better than a theater. When I hear “theater experience,” I imagine sticky floors, everybody texting and an old lady behind me kicking my chair and nasally asking, “What’d he say?” every time George Clooney wiggles an eyebrow.
Yet I understand why theaters would suddenly charge upwards of $100 to see a movie. It’s reverse psychology. It’s what you do when you’re peddling an inferior product. If there’s no hype, you manufacture it.
Put a velvet rope outside with a bouncer holding a VIP list and hopefully somebody will think it’s “exclusive.” The hot girl never has to wear the funky jewelry and giant bedazzled sweater with the purse she macraméd by herself.
Instead of trying to concoct new ways to bilk us out of another $130 to enjoy Garfield 3, how about attempting to write, direct and produce a film that’s not based on a video or board game, or starring a 60-year-old action hero, or based on the fourth in a series of novels about a boy wizard or angsty teenaged vampires.
Now that’s a “cinema experience” I’d pay to see.
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.