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Regal Cinemas Will Try Charging More for Hits and Less for Flops

Empty movie theater
Alamy

A movie ticket is a movie ticket is a movie ticket. In some places you might pay less for a matinee (although not in New York, unfortunately), but otherwise theaters charge what they charge. If a theater is showing a $200 million blockbuster in one auditorium and a $50,000 indie in the next, they charge the same to see either one.

But that is about to change, at least at one of the nation’s largest theater chains. Regal Cinemas this week announced a plan to experiment with what’s known as “dynamic pricing” in 2018. As described by Bloomberg, this will “potentially [lead] to higher prices for top hits and low prices for flops”:

‘Changes to the historical pricing structure have often been discussed but rarely tested in our industry, and we’re excited to learn even more about how pricing changes impact customer behavior,’ Amy Miles, chief executive officer of the Knoxville, Tennessee-based exhibitor, said Tuesday on a call with analysts.

Essentially, this means the theater will treat its auditoriums the way airlines treat their planes: When demand is high, they jack up the prices; when they can’t find bodies to fill the seats, they bring them back down. This could be perilous; I’m not sure doing anything that makes a movie theater feel more like an airport is going to get customers excited. On the one hand: Would I absolutely be more likely to go to the movies more if, say, Geostorm was $8 or even $10 instead of $16.95, which is the standard ticket price at the Regal in Times Square right now? Absolutely. On the other hand: Would I pissed off if I went to see The Last Jedi and instead of $16.95 it was $19.95 for the exact same movie because a lot of people wanted to see it? Hell yes. (I am not saying that’s Regal’s plan; I’m just talking hypothetically of what I would envision as the worst-case scenario for dynamic pricing as a customer.)

At this point, dynamic pricing is purely a test and only in certain markets, but I will be watching to see how it goes, and whether it comes to anywhere in my area. (If so, I will check it out and report back.) The same Bloomberg article states that Regal does not plan to partner with Moviepass, the subscription ticket service that lets you go to all the theatrical movies you want for $10 a month (provided the theater you want to go to accepts Moviepass, which Regal does not.) Regal’s going to be the one setting the prices in its theaters, whatever they wind up being.

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