The AMC theater chain isn’t boycotting Warner Bros. or The Batman, like they threatened to do with Universal Pictures at the height of COVID, but they are installing measures that might make their customers reconsider seeing it.
They are raising ticket prices on the Matt Reeves film and other blockbuster attractions this weekend by $1.50 and AMC Chief Executive Adam Aron explained the move in a conference call with investors on Tuesday.
Prices for The Batman tickets will be “slightly higher than the prices… for other movies playing in the same theaters at the same time,” Aron said per Entertainment Weekly.
He also noted that while “This is all quite novel in the United States…AMC has been doing it for years in our European theaters.” Those Euro-based chains AMC owns that Aron referred to are Odeon and UCI Cinemas.
“Indeed, in Europe, we charge a premium for the best seats in the house, as do just about all other sellers of tickets in other industries — think sports events, concerts, and live theater, for example,” Aron added.
On this side of the Atlantic, single ticket prices a few cents shy of $20 for The Batman are being found and reported in California and New York. For comparison’s sake, AMC’s tickets for Uncharted cost nearly as much at $17.99 or higher.
Gouging or not, this practice of “variable pricing” isn’t exactly new to the cinema industry. Theaters around the world charge different prices during the week, for matinees vs evenings, and for luxury seating.
Still, it has met with skepticism in regards to viability in American markets when preference is being shown to some films over others in this case. The idea also gives the impression AMC is questioning the quality of one release compared to another – particularly those that aren’t a tent pole.
Aron sees that criticism and views it as a gamble that can pay off for AMC long-term. “AMC has been a bold thinker in the area of pricing,” he says. “One who is willing to take risk, and one who is willing to lead, and one who sees considerable upside opportunity for us ahead if we continue to be imaginative.”
AMC has struggled the last few years due to precautions taken during the pandemic – and felt slighted by Hollywood over the day-and-date streaming model.
The chain floated in the orbit of bankruptcy while other companies looked at adjusting their strategies. Consequently, they may follow suit with AMC and adopt variable pricing.
In the end, though, the real rub is some of the biggest filmmakers and Hollywood power players saw the phenomenon coming years ago.
George Lucas predicted the decline of movie theaters and higher prices in 2013. “What you’re going to end up with is fewer theaters. Bigger theaters, with a lot of nice things,” he said to Variety.
“Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe 100. Maybe 150. And that’s going to be what we call ‘the movie business.’ But everything else is going to look more like cable television on TiVo,” he added.
His Indiana Jones collaborator Steven Spielberg saw the same future, which is increasingly now, in all its diminishing returns from blockbusters and price variances.
“There’s going to be eventually day and date with movies, and eventually there’s going to be a price variance,” Spielberg said as well in 2013. “You’re going to have to pay $25 to see the next ‘Iron Man.’ And you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see ‘Lincoln.’”
He continued, “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm again.”
What do you make of AMC’s new pricing model?