Will Movies Remain “Recession Proof”?

That's the subject of this article I read today. Since movies are considered a relatively cheap form of entertainment, and big releases are always attracting audiences, they're considered to be rather "recession proof".

Tickets in Manhattan, however, are around twelve dollars now. Twelve. And matinees are either so restricted as to be inaccessible for most people, or nonexistent. when I was a teen in the 90s, I'd often go to matinees. They cost about $5, and the theaters offered them every weekday and Saturday before 6pm. That was generous, and although my weekly allowance was only $5, add in a little babysitting money and a walk to the theater instead of paying for the bus, and I was able to see perhaps two movies some months. Rentals and borrowed copies not included.

Many of the local theaters closed starting around 1994, and the multiplex that had those generous matinees? The current policy is limited to showtimes before 3PM Monday-Thursday, and first show on Friday and Saturday. Their regular prices, instead of being a couple of dollars cheaper than in Manhattan, are $11.50. Local theaters used to be a respite from the high Manhattan prices, but no longer. The ultimate result is that I don't really discriminate between theater location anymore, because it doesn't really save me money like it used to.

At twelve dollars a ticket, I'm simply much choosier about which films I see on the big screen. I tend to take a few factors into consideration.

  • Is this a simple comedy or drama that doesn't have any sort of music or effects that call for a big screen experience?
  • Is it a musical? Musicals deserve the big screen and high-tech sound system for a first viewing.
  • How long is the movie? Because if it's only 85 minutes long, I'm likelier to wait for DVD.
  • How much would I mind spoilers? Or how long have I been anticipating this film? Both affect how long I will wait.

There is a bit of a break available. Theater chains sell discounted admission coupons that you can exchange for tickets at the box office. You often have to buy them in bulk (though I have seen them a la carte much more often lately), and they come with a host of different restrictions varying by chain. A lot of these tickets tack on a fee in New York City though, so for me the discount isn't usually that much, but it is worth looking into.

All in all, we like our movies and we need our entertainment to help us get through tough times. The business itself will survive recessions, but I suspect like me, audiences are going to be more selective.