Blockbuster Cinema: Putting a Price on Experience?

The cinema. Whether it’s childhood dates, birthday treats, or simply the first time you saw your animated heroes on the big screen, the cinema holds a great deal of nostalgia for everyone. Where else can you say you paid money to sit in silence in a dark room, with a bunch of strangers – and enjoyed it?

Sadly though, it seems that people are less and less willing to pay so much for that privilege. As someone who remembers only ever having to take a fiver, tops, to get to see a movie with my friends, I have always found the current cinema prices a bit wince-worthy. But it wasn’t until a recent trip to see Spectre that I noticed something that made the whole thing just that little bit worse.

‘Blockbuster Prices’. Add £1 to the standard price of your cinema ticket if you’re going to see one of the largest, most popular movies of the year. Spectre, Hunger Games and Star Wars will all be subject to this charge at your local Odeon – you know, all those films you’ll probably be too desperate to miss out on.

Not to mention that if you want to see them in 3D (as most blockbusters are nowadays) that will add an extra £2 onto your bill. Oh no – forgot your 3D glasses? Don’t worry, the cinema will supply them for you. For an extra quid, of course.

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But what’s an extra few pounds here and there? Well, if you weren’t sure, all of those little extras will bring the price of a standard adult ticket up to an impressive £12.95. A world away from my memories of a cheap school night out with my friends.

It’s alright if you have vouchers though, right? Not really. The ‘2 for £10’ vouchers the Odeon have been giving out with tickets have been very clear to say in block writing, that the voucher excludes any and all films they consider to be blockbusters. Perhaps the worst thing that I discovered about this extra charge was that it’s been around for longer than I ever expected – an entire year, in fact. It has been able to fly under the radar due to the fact that the only place you’ll really see the charge mentioned is on the website. They certainly don’t warn you at the till. It seems that we have become so used to being overcharged for tickets that a few pounds can slip by virtually unnoticed.

Given the experience you’ll be buying as well, it’s hard to see how the price reflects the value. Sticky seats, rustling wrappers and herds of pre-pubescent boys cackling and swearing makes venues like the Odeon hold up badly in comparison to independent cinemas, like the Everyman, where you can recline in the comfort of sofa seats and armchairs, with drinks and food delivered to your seat. With their tickets for Spectre selling at £12.80, it’s hard to see how large cinema brands will be able to hold up against the value of experience independent cinemas can offer.

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This isn’t the only problem they’ll be facing, though. With DVDs now being released only a short time after the films leave cinemas (Jurassic World found itself on sale only 4 months after cinematic release), people may prefer to simply wait to purchase the movie for themselves. Not to mention the ever-present threat of piracy. With the understanding of technology and the internet being at the height it is today, you no longer need to “know a guy” who is good with computers to get a dodgy disc of a movie. Now those films are just one illegal, but easy, click away.

And then of course, there’s the newer opponent: Netflix. For half the price of one cinema ticket you can find yourself with a month’s worth of access to a large supply of TV and films, all from the comfort of your own home. With the nights drawing in faster, darker and colder, it’s not hard to imagine a night in winning time and time again over the expensive inconvenience of going to a cinema.

The struggle that cinemas are facing is nothing new. Sadly they seem to be stuck in an endless loop: people go to the cinema less, so they have to raise prices, so people go the cinema less, and so on.

But as someone who loves the movies, who holds a special place in her heart for the magic of the cinema, and someone who has found herself defending films by saying they were “more atmospheric at the cinema”, I wish I could tell you to go along anyway.

I wish I could tell you to leave the Netflix and Chill for some other night. Grab your purse and a loved one, and experience the movies how you were meant to see them.

But with cinemas adding more and more ridiculous hidden charges, and sending ticket prices through the roof, I’m afraid cinema is causing itself more damage than it’s fixing.

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