At a Regal Cinema in Rensselaer, New York, the price for a regular showing of The Lorax is $7.75 while the price for the 3D version of the movie is $13.75. That’s a considerable up-charge, and it’s one that consumers and film fans have gotten used to. Either you swallow the bitter pill of renting plastic glasses for an addition six bucks or you stick with the traditional 2D model to avoid the headache.

Now, according to Joe Paletta, the CEO of Spotlight Theaters – a regional theater that has a handful of operations in Georgia, one in Connecticut and one in Florida – has written a brief piece for Screen Trade Magazine in which he states that they’ll most likely be folding the price of 3D tickets into the regular ticket prices. “Among the bigger changes will probably see the 3D-upcharge disappear. 3D charges will help increase the overall ticket-price but, as an industry, I think we’ll see a blend begin to emerge in 2012, where patrons will have a single price for both 2D and 3D films. 2D prices will increase and 3D prices will decrease.”

My emphasis there is meant to spotlight the reality of the situation. What this means is that instead of paying $14 for 3D tickets or $8 for 2D tickets, everyone will end up paying $11 per ticket to split the difference. Now, clearly this won’t be across the board change, and Spotlight isn’t a giant outfit but it’s certainly an idea that has to have crossed the minds of other theater owners. If it wasn’t, it definitely is after the piece.

This move could be a problem for everyone.

For consumers, it’s obvious. Even if you want to avoid paying more for a special screening, you won’t be able to. Sorry about that. Never mind that nothing about your experience is being enhanced with this change; you’re simply just going to pay more.

For theater owners, the short term benefit is two-fold but it’s not genuine. Since more people see 2D movies than 3D movies currently, theaters would make more money per ticket with this move without an increase to overhead. Plus, for those who do want to see 3D movies, this can seem like a savings they can put in commercials. Unfortunately, the long term problem is that it’s an increase in prices (even if it’s paired with a decrease) and even an Econ 101 class will point out that raising prices can lower sales, and without adding any (repeat: any) benefit to the consumers, it just might piss off enough people to drive them away. Even without that, it’s still polishing the brass.

For filmmakers, it creates a false advantage for 3D filmmaking which could potentially tie the hands of creators in the future who don’t want to use that particular technology. If consumers decide to simply go ahead and buy the 3D ticket since it’s the same price, it could artificially inflate the numbers on 3D sales which might put dollar signs in the eyeballs of studio heads which are only ghosts. That’s a worst case scenario, but it doesn’t seem that far fetched considering how trends are chased (right alongside ghosts) in the production process. That could either mean more 3D movies that shouldn’t be in 3D or it could lead to the collapse of 3D filmmaking after the bubble bursts. Either way.

Now, there are new technologies which increase the visual and audio experience in theaters, but Paletta’s piece is an excellent example of how empty the real advancements are. Among the bigger changes, as he says, is their raising prices so you pay more. See if you can find if he mentions a comparable benefit for its customers – something that movie fans can really enjoy.

It’s easy to falsely lower the cost of 3D tickets by passing along the cost to a larger audience. It’s harder to innovate. Still, it would be great to see theater owners actually try. Hopefully this is an idea that doesn’t get a strong foothold with the bigger theater chains.


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