Going to the movies just got more expensive

The 3-D rage is prompting movie-theater chains to raise prices.

By Elizabeth Strott Mar 26, 2010 8:22AM

Film © Comstock/SuperStockIt's going to cost movie lovers more to go see their favorite films today.


Movie-theater chains Regal Entertainment Group (RGC), Cinemark Holdings (CNK) and AMC Entertainment are raising prices for 3-D films, thanks to big demand for hits like "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland." 


Beginning today, prices for adult admission to 3-D movies will jump an average 8.3% at movie theaters across the country, according to BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, who surveyed 10 theaters in different major cities. Greenfield found that IMAX movie tickets will cost people about 10% more, while regular old 2-D movie prices are expected to increase about 4% on average.


Prices will range depending on location, but moviegoers at the Danvers, Mass., AMC theater will see a 21% increase in prices. Prices will rise 11% at the Seattle Regal Thornton Place multiplex and 18% at the AMC Loews Kips Bay theater in New York City, according to reports.


Going to the movies has been a popular means of entertainment during the recession, as consumers cut back on dining out and other more expensive types of entertainment.


3-D movies made up 11% of domestic ticket sales last year, up from 2% in 2008. Box office revenue topped $10 billion for the first time ever in 2009, and movie attendance jumped 5.5% in the U.S. and Canada to 1.42 billion, the highest level in five years, the Journal reported.


Consumers paid an extra $2 to $3 for 3-D shows, but many theaters thought that was too little.


Moviegoers might forgo the 3-D films because of the price hike, according to Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG. "There is definitely a risk here in pushing price too far in a weak economy," Greenfield wrote in a research report on Wednesday, noting that the economy is still struggling.


"This is a truly unique event for the movie industry," Greenfield said. "I can't remember the last time I saw such a major change in ticket pricing."


Two more 3-D movies are expected to add to the 3-D boom.
"How to Train Your Dragon" opens today, and "Clash of the Titans" will debut next weekend.


Some experts say the 3-D boom is a bit overdone. "They're probably overestimating the appeal of 3-D," Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo, a Web site that tracks ticket sales, told CNNMoney.com. "It's more of an industry push than an audience push, at least currently."


Shares of Regal Entertainment were down 5 cents to $18.23, but they are up more than 48% in the past year. Cinemark Holdings stock rose 8 cents to $18.29 per share this morning; the stock is up 104% over the past year.

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