Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So many ways to Shrek it. Comparing ticket prices for 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D.

Let's say I want to go see Shrek: The Final Chapter over the opening weekend, perhaps with my two-year old daughter in tow.  But, do I see it in 2D 35mm, 3D, or IMAX 3D?  Barring whether or not Allison is able and willing to watch a movie while wearing 3D glasses, what's the best option for my movie-going dollar?  Well, fortunately, most of the larger multiplexes seem to be offering the film on at least one 2D screen, for the economically inclined amongst us.  Taking just my local Woodlands Hills AMC theater, let's compare the prices for the various Shrek Forever After options that will be available on Friday the 21st.

Let's say I want to see Shrek Forever After with my daughter at one of AMC's before-noon discount matinees.  The before-noon matinees have always been the best bargain in town for first-run movie-going.  While they are usually just on weekends and holidays during most of the year, they actually are available every day during the summer months at the larger theaters.  Which format do I choose?  Well...
35mm 2D: $6.00                    35mm 3D: $11.00                    IMAX 3D: $13.00

Well, let's say my daughter sleeps in a little bit (God forbid...) and we don't really get out the door until around lunch time, so we decide to grab a bite at Sharkeys before hitting the cineplex (since AMC no longer lets you bring your own grub into the theaters).  How much would a normal midday matinee run me?  Well...
35mm 2D: $10.00                    35mm 3D: $15.00                    IMAX 3D: $17.00

But wait... Allison has been playing around all day and she actually wants to take a real nap (no... seriously... stop laughing!).  Wow, she slept from 2:00pm all the way to 5:00pm.  Gee, we're all rested and relaxed, but now we'll have to catch a normal evening show.  Uh oh... I wonder which format we should choose...
35mm 2D: $12.00                    35mm 3D: $17.00                    IMAX 3D: $19.00

As you can see, there's a pretty huge jump from 2D to 3D ($5.00), but after you've made the leap, the extra $2 isn't that hard to stomach.  Of course, disregarding a buck or two difference for the later show-times for kids admission and senior citizen discount, I can't imagine a family of five wanting to spend nearly $100 on tickets alone for an evening showing of Shrek Forever After, especially when you're looking at another $20-30 worth of popcorn, soda, and candy (to say nothing of AMC's surprisingly decent chicken tenders).  What does this all mean?  Well, as I've said any number of times, I'm all for studios releasing whatever they want in 3D and I have no objection to theaters charging whatever they want to charge for admission to these 'premium engagements'.

But (and this is a big but), theaters and studios absolutely have to offer the normal 2D option for every 3D film, both for reasons of enjoyment (some people just don't like or can't handle 3D) and economic realities (you can theoretically buy a DVD of any given movie the day it's released for less than the cost of said IMAX 3D ticket).  Once studios so flood the marketplace with 3D films that many theaters cannot offer 2D alternatives, that's the beginning of the end for theaters.  Because, let's face it, with the arguable exception of The Polar Express and Coraline, there has never been a movie that absolutely had to be seen in 3D.  And with evening tickets going for $17-20 a pop, once you lose the more reasonable 2D alternatives, movie-going no longer looks like the cheap entertainment option for anything resembling a large brood, or even a date night.

Scott Mendelson

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