It’s a surreal sensation when walking into a movie theater for an 8:00 p.m. on April 5, 2013 showing feels like 1993…June 11th to be exact. Opening the doors to theater 12 served as a time travel portal from precisely twenty years earlier (give or take two months). As an anxious seven-year old in suburban Columbus, Ohio, my adventurous family and I drove the three miles to the AMC Movie Theater at Mill Run for the first premiere of “Jurassic Park.” The previews indicated it was about dinosaurs living in the modern era, but revealed virtually nothing else. Our minds were filled with an excited curiosity at what famed director Steven Spielberg and his team had created. Familiar with his universal classics, “Jaws,” “ET the Extra Terrestrial” and the Indiana Jones adventures, expectations were as tall as a, well, Brachiosaurus.
Just as fossils have proven the existence of extraordinary species of dinosaurs, Steven Spielberg’s decision to adapt one of the best movies from his illustrious director’s log into 3-D has also proven to be extraordinary. The audience saw a new dimension of special effects visionary and Academy Award Winner (Best Visual Effects: “Jurassic Park”) Stan Winston. We the spectators were put in the same position as Ellie when the Velociraptor burst through the floor to ceiling pipes after restarting the park’s electrical grid and Tim and Lex in the compound’s kitchen while being hunted by two raptors. The girl next to me actually jumped out of her seat when Ellie was attacked by the once hidden raptor! There are breathtaking scenes throughout the two hour cinematic masterpiece.
“Jurassic Park” and 3-D are a match made in heaven. Absolutely stunning!
Going to the movie theater to see the magnificent “Jurassic Park” in IMAX 3-D did put into perspective a new reality we now find ourselves. With as much hype that surrounded this re-release, it was an unknown variable as to how the public would respond. The verdict? According to Moviefone: $18.2 million! A pretty tremendous success for the first weekend of an updated re-release competing against movies with brand new content. Arriving forty-five minutes early secured the second spot in line. This was important because the number of people who stood patiently grew exponentially every five minutes until the usher opened the doors.
It’s here we arrive at the center of what transpired last Friday evening in a cultural sense. This singular showing saw multiple generations dedicate their Friday night to waiting and then watching a movie they probably own and first enjoyed twenty years ago. To repeat, twenty years ago. In a scenario between remaining at home to watch cable or experiencing the thrills of seeing a film on the silver screen, crowds of people chose the latter. The atmosphere was terrific.
Did Spielberg provide us with more than one cultural flashback?
The box office numbers combined with the eye test proved there is still a desire to be around other people by vacating the “comforts” of our own private space. Last Friday night felt like I was back in the 1990s with the huge crowd of anxious people spending their evening at the movies for the big premiere. Yet, there is still a problem lurking around movie theaters across the country.
By its lonesome, it signifies nothing. However, with a $ before it, the solitary number becomes a value. It happened to be the price of the ticket of admission for the IMAX 3-D version of “Jurassic Park.” While standing in line, I wondered what the average ticket price of a movie was back in 1993. I researched it on my phone and the internet spit back ~$4. Okay, now how about 1973? ~$1.77. Groovy! Apparently, ticket prices are doubling every twenty years. The $15.50 was the cost of the most expensive ticket for this rare re-release, so don’t equate this number with the average price today. The average ticket price for a new major motion picture in 2013 is ~$8.
Paying up for a 3-D movie in IMAX is one thing, but the price for any new release is cause for reflection on the here and now compared to the not-so-distant past.
The instinct to physically venture off to a movie theater is still ingrained in the film loving mind of the American people. But at what cost? There will be a breaking point in how much a family or group of friends will spend on a night out at the movies. Anything more than $5/ticket to me is asking too much that does not involve 3-D or IMAX. We are currently at $8. The definitive red line for most families will almost certainly be $10/ticket: double digits.
Simply going to the theater on a whim one evening to see the new movie is no longer an affordable protocol due to the exorbitant prices, from teenagers to adults. Funds have to shifted around. By the way, the snacks have not even been purchased yet…anybody have a twenty?
And in today’s world, one of the most horrific questions has to be pondered by thousands while standing in the “twilight zone” of the lobby of any theater around the country. This is the area between the concession stand and the hallways for the individual theaters. Anything can happen here, for better or worse. For those precious few seconds, we all have been forced to ask: “Do we really need popcorn?” This proposition is enough to send me into shock, no joke. We all know prices are too high when this question is asked. No popcorn at the movies!?
“Houston (& everywhere else), we have a problem!”
My Mom and I used to have our own “movie marathons” to see new movies for a week or so during the summer when I was a kid. Movies, popcorn and a soda. This scenario, sadly, is virtually impossible today. The movie theater is supposed to be for everybody in the community on any give day and time to escape for a couple hours. Like those $4 tickets, spur of the moment “movie marathons” appear to be another relic of yesteryear.
“Back when I was your age, going to the movies cost ~$10 and included a popcorn, small drink and change for the arcade.”
If ticket prices for movies become too high, then fewer people will go to movie theaters and enjoy the atmosphere filled with wonderment whilst in the company of fellow movie lovers. A negative connotation will emerge for movies in general. The problem the major studios face is, ironic to the politically vocal celebrities in Hollywood, exactly what is occurring on Wall Street. The profits for the big studios and its beneficiaries are astronomical, at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet, the public continues to pay more than they ever have for reasons unknown. Yes, it costs more to film in 3-D and/or IMAX, but somewhere in this monetary cycle the revenue is being directed where it shouldn’t and we’re all paying for it.
People want to be gregarious. Thankfully, the magic of going to the movies on a Friday night is still there. However, movie studios and the deal makers involved better not take the public’s long history of excitement and commitment of paying to see newly released major motion pictures for granted. People and memories are not numbers on a spreadsheet. If the current inflationary trend is not reversed, then movie theaters could become extinct.
Hopefully in 2033, a coming attraction won’t be titled, “Jurassic Theater.”
Good luck with that.