a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, October 24, 2005

Baloney Sandwiches at Prime Rib Prices

So maybe I'm just hungry, but I got to thinking about how things would be different if the movie business were like the restaurant business.

You go into a restaurant, you look at the menu, and you have to make choices. Generally, the better the meal, the more you have to pay for it.

$29.95 for some prime rib? Yum! Or, hey, the baloney sandwich is just $4.50! Might be worth it.

I think it should be the same way for movies.

So this is my plan. It will never, ever be adopted, because it makes too much sense (to everyone but the movie studios, who would hate it). But here it is:

The price of a movie should be determined by how good the movie is.

Here's one way to do it. Let's make a law, that to determine the price of a ticket to an individual movie, you go to Rotten Tomatoes, and see what percentage of all the nation's critics actually liked it. Then you multiply that number by 10 cents.

So 95% of the critics like Wallace and Gromit? It'll cost you $9.50 to get in. North Country will cost you $7.20. Dreamer $6.40.

But you can see Elizabethtown for $3.00. Doom will only cost you $2.00. The Fog will be a bargain-basement $1.10.

The effect of this would be obvious. Movie studios would need to do everything they can to make sure their movies are as good as possible, to maximize their profits. Movie theaters would be motivated only to book good movies, because even a sell-out on a $1.10 showing of The Fog wouldn't make much money.

Plus audiences would be constantly reminded of the value of the movies they are deciding to see; it's hard to ignore the reviews of Domino when you learn you can get it at thrift store prices.

Is this idea crazy? Probably. Because audiences should be effectively accomplishing this by themselves. It works with DVDs, where you can find all sorts of crap for $5.99, but you pay more for the good movies.

Yet as it exists now, movie theaters are like the kind of non-existant restaurant in which every entree, from Prime Rib to Lobster to Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, costs exactly the same. So you would think that the customers would be ordering the best food exclusively.

Nope. Doom and The Fog cost the same as the good movies. And people are choosing to see them anyway.

So what's the incentive for the studios, when the baloney sandwiches are flying off the shelves, while the surf 'n' turf is ignored?

$9.60 for Goodnight and Good Luck. $1.90 for Two For The Money.

Works for me.


At 12:43 PM, Blogger David Mulholland said...

Interesting idea. Another equally unachievable way to price movies would be based on budget. That way you get what you pay for. If you want to see Peter Jackson go all apey with special effects, it's going to cost you $10. If you want to see the mid-budget movie with good actors, it's only going to cost you $6. Short on cash? Try an independent movie for $2. That way, you can even afford the popcorn!

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about theatres offer a money back guarantee...if you make it past the midway point no refund

At 3:22 PM, Blogger s.warren said...

Theaters, at least a chain, did try the money back guarantee at one point during Cinderella Man's run. I don't know how that worked out...

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Chris (UK Scriptwriter) said...

I don't know about the US, but over here in the UK consumer rights state (I think) that you have the right to a refund if the product you purchased didn't serve the intended purpose.

Now, if I buy a ticket in a cinema, I expect to be entertained by the movie that ticket grants me access to. If I'm not entertained I should be entitled to my money back.

If I ever win the lottery and go to see a crap film, I'll have the money to sue the cinema when I'm not entertained. Do you think I'd win?

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I like it. Under this system, Kevin Smith would owe *me* money every time I went to Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

You might be able to sue if they were using misleading advertising to make it look like a good movie, and it wasn't.

I'm not sure you can sue for going to see "Doom" and expecting it to be more than it is.

At 1:26 AM, Anonymous Jacob Sager Weinstein said...

A guy named Stelios, who is well-known in the UK and Europe for starting up a low-budget airline called Easyjet, is trying something along these lines with his EasyCinema.

I've never been, since it's rather a shlep from London, but I believe the way it works is that for any given showing of any given movie, there are a certain number of tickets available at £1, a certain number at £2, a certain number at £3, etc. If nobody else wants to see a film (or if you book well in advance), the £1 tickets will still be available and you can get in cheap. But if a ton of people buy tickets, the cheap tickets get used up and the next buyers have to pay more. As on an airplane, the guy in the seat next to you might have paid a very different price.

Looking at tomorrow's screenings, I see that OLIVER TWIST is selling for £2.50, SERENITY is £3.50, and INTO THE BLUE and WALLACE & GROMIT are each £4.50.

At 7:13 AM, Anonymous t0ny969 said...

Like everyone else, I think this is a great idea. However, I could see the studios trying to game the system by "lobbying" critics. I imagine that there are only so many critics, so it wouldn't be that hard or that expensive. They would make it a part of the movies advertising budget.
One potential solution to this is to have two scores: professional critics and amateur critics (you and me). These scores would then be weighted against each other to come to a final movie price.

just my opinion,

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Anymore I usually wait for the DVD to come out. Netflix has spoiled me.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Mac said...

I second David Mulolland's proposal that budget indie movies could be shown in the large chains for (say) $2-$3.

Remember, a HUGE part of movie theatre profits don't come in from ticket sales - they are from the huge markup on popcorn, Coke, etc.

Naturally there are other limitations on Indie films - like the huge cost of prints. But with Digital Cinema getting closer, that obstacle will also end.

Maybe multi-priced films are the way of the future ??


At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Annabel said...

In theory it is a great idea!

I just wonder . . . who are all of these people watching these terrible movies? What does that say about the general public? Scary . . .

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Griffin said...

Netflix has spoiled me too but I like this idea, variable pricing. Smart thinking. I'd enjoy it even more if it was fixed to customer reviews. The price would then rise or fall depending on the reviews of movie goers. The critics set the inital price and the cinephiles adjust it. Sounds good to me.

At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Clint Johnson said...

What you are actually advocating is the creation of a disincentive to going to good films. Not that I really believe anyone is going to be on the fence between going to 'A History or Violence' or 'Doom' and that the ticket price is going to be the deciding factor. Just relax and let the market forces work. Here in Canada we have the government trying to rig things so that more quality films are made and we are left with an insufferable pile of crap as a result. If it takes several movies of the quality of 'The Fog' to get one 'Cinderella Man' then just be happy that you have that. Canada wishes it could create more films as good as 'The Fog'.

At 12:53 PM, Blogger Dixon Steele said...

When Edgar Bronfman and Seagrams bought Universal about a decade ago, he proposed the same thing. Because, he reasoned, for Scotch drinkers we sell Chivas Regal (premium priced) and also Cuttt Sark (medium priced). Why not the same with movies?

Of course, everyone shouted him down and he later lost billions when he merged with a French company.

Oh well, that's show biz.


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