Can Moviegoing Be Saved by the Uber Model?
As ticket sales drop, Regal Cinemas is looking to offset the loss in a novel way.
While box office revenues have generally risen over the past decade, actual ticket sales have dropped. Cinema chains have tried to offset falling attendance by raising prices and offering VIP theatrical experiences, but now some are trying a different spin on that formula. The American chain Regal Cinemas is implementing its own take on the so-called "surge pricing" model used by companies like Uber.
According to The Playlist, in early 2018 select Regal Cinemas will join forces with app company Atom Tickets to experiment with what they're calling "demand based pricing," which means, essentially, that during peak movie attendance hours (how these hours are determined has yet to be revealed, though probably it means nights and, especially, weekends), you'll pay more for tickets to popular movies. Conversely, you will pay less for titles that are less in-demand, as well as during off-peak hours.
During peak movie attendance hours, you'll pay more for tickets to popular movies.
The (possibly ill-advised) idea behind this is that, in the wake of the new pricing rubric, audiences will find themselves with more incentive to go to the movies, and to, correspondingly, "check out smaller movies that are priced more cheaply," but, as The Playlist observes, whether or not this happens has yet to be seen. One thing that is almost certain is that when it comes to almost guaranteed blockbusters, e.g. the latest Star Wars, an audience is likely to pay more than the regular ticket price. It's also yet to be seen if these higher prices will lead to any special "enhancements" of the movie going experience, or just a higher ticket price to see a big blockbuster movie. Furthermore, this does raise the question of whether "demand based pricing" will possibly "price out" both lower-income viewers, as well as families on limited budgets, for whom a night out at the movies is already a costly proposition.
Whether or not this is a strategy will be effective is yet to be seen. It has been effective for service providers like Uber, but could end up shooting Regal Cinemas in the foot. If the company's desire is to get more people into theaters and therefore counteract the bite in ticket sales, it seems counterintuitive to raise prices against the universe of streaming options currently at moviegoer's disposal and cost-effective theatrical options like the $10/month MoviePass service. But only time—and revenue—will tell whether "demand based pricing" works for theaters and moviegoers.