The Real Reason Movie Tickets Have Gotten So Expensive

Popular movies continue to break box office records, but it’s really taking a toll on the viewers’ wallets.

Clapper board, spilled popcorn and movie tickets on a background of boardsLaboko/Shutterstock

A night at the movies is always a good idea. But when you leave the theater and realize you just dropped $45 on a ticket and some snacks, you’ll wish you had been patient enough to wait until the movie came out on Netflix. The average movie ticket price in the United States in 2000 was $5.39; now, a ticket is over $9. So, what gives?

The main reason that movie tickets have gotten so expensive is because of inflation. It was actually more expensive to go to the movies in the ’70s than it is now. A ticket in 1978 cost $2.34. If you plug that into an inflation calculator the same ticket would cost you $9.46 today. According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the average cost for a ticket today is $9.11. NATO calculated their average using theaters all around the world, so their number falls somewhere in between the $8 you might pay for a ticket at a local theater in a small town and the $16 you might pay at a theater in a big city such as New York or Los Angeles. When you do head to the theater, make sure you always follow these movie theater etiquette rules.

Another reason you need to dip into your life savings to see a movie on the big screen is that theaters are competing with streaming services that produce their own films, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. And let’s be honest, sitting at home on your couch or in your bed is a lot comfier than sitting in a cold theater.

Because of streaming technology, movie theaters have to use incentives to bring in customers. Gourmet refreshments—including alcohol, reclining seats, surround sound, and 3-D movies are all examples of that. And those upgrades come at a price, leading to more expensive tickets. Read up on these other things movie theater employees won’t tell you.

“There’s all that anticipation and buildup, and it’s really important for theater owners and companies to make that experience as pleasurable as possible,” Patrick Corcoran, vice president of the National Association of Theatre Owners told Marketplace. “Because you’re offering a premium experience—audience expectations are for the latest and greatest technology. Audiences are willing to pay more for a particular experience.”

Consider yourself lucky though if you live in the states. A $26.49 ticket for a fancy reclining seat at AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York City is nothing compared to the $50.75 you would pay for a similar seat at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square in London.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan Cutolo is a former senior production editor at Trusted Media Brands. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine, where she lives, and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.