Opinion: Movie theaters are becoming elitist

// Illustration by Audra Anderson

By Emily Erskine

Picture this, it’s 1975 and the newest Steven Spielberg movie just hit the theaters. It’s a Friday night and you and your friends have a couple bucks to spare, so you go to the cinema, and marvel in the shared experience of consuming a motion picture with 40 other onlookers. 

There is something so special and nostalgic about the smell of popcorn, the taste of the candy, the cushioned seats, the dark theater and the big screen in front of you. 

But nowadays, when looking for something to do on a boring weekend night, it seems almost impossible to justify spending such a huge chunk of change on a movie ticket. 

It has been said many times that the downfall of movie theaters can be attributed to the access of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, but I’d have to disagree. While many of us are, in fact, using these conveniences in the comfort of our homes, a lot of us still long for that magical experience. It is my belief that movie theaters would still be thriving if it weren’t for the absolutely ridiculous ticket prices set forth these days. 

What used to be a shared experience that everyone could partake in, has now become, in a way, an elitist privilege. It saddens me. 

As an individual living in residential Bellingham, if I want to see a new movie at the local Regal Cinema, I have to pay nearly $13 for a standard ticket, or nearly $18 for IMAX, not including tax. The current minimum wage is $12 an hour. To view a movie in a theater, which used to be something anyone could dig up some change for, I now have to spend the money I make an hour. For a family of four (adjusting for youth ticket prices and including tax), that is roughly $48, not to mention the outrageous concession prices, which could easily tip the total to close to $100. 

We’ve all heard the stories from our parents. On lazy Saturday afternoons their parents would take them, their siblings and all of their friends to the movies as something fun to pass the time. My mom always tells me she saw “Grease” in theaters at least 10 times. In today’s world, it takes a really special movie to get us out of the house and breaking the bank.

If ticket prices were cut in half, I would be seeing a new movie every single weekend, which to me seems like a no brainer. Nobody is showing up for films, yet prices remain so high. Doesn’t the obvious solution seem to be to lower prices?

In a shaky economy, people’s budget for entertainment is the first to go, but I think it’s the thing we need the most. Films have a history of bringing communities together, providing light-hearted relief during times of war and hardships and educating children at such formative ages. 

I think we could all use a little more movie-going in our lives.

5 comments

  • No mention of the Pickford in here…

  • Why don’t you just go to the Pickford? Their tickets are like $8 for students. Expand your horizons outside the large movie chains!

  • Well… In 1975 the cost of a movie ticket was $2.05 and minimum wage was $2.10. So you still had to work an hour to see a movie.

    • Adjusted for inflation, $2.05 in 2018 would be $9.67. Pickford tickets are less than $9.67. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the average ticket price in 2018 was $9.11. While evening shows at Regal are $13.45, matinees – which play as late as 5:40 p.m. – are only $10.95 for adults – slightly ahead of the national average, and less than the current minimum wage in Bellingham (which is also well ahead of the Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25/hour).

      The last two editorials I read in the Western Front have been disappointing and utterly lacking in any facts. The above data took less than two minutes to compile using the Googler. I’m interested in reading the informed opinions of our student journalists, and I urge WF to do better than what amounts to social media complaint posts on their op-ed page.

      • Hi Chris,
        I’ll pass your feedback onto our team. You’re always welcome to write a letter to the editor, too!

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