Giving Movie Theaters the Finger

Section 2 of the Sherman antitrust act states that, ” Every person who shall monopolize, or attempt to monopolize, or combine or conspire with any other person or persons, to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine.” Apparently movie theaters didn’t get the memo.

In the past 80 years the average price of a movie ticket has risen from 35 cents to $7.20, a compound growth rate of 3.85%, while the average price of movie popcorn has risen from 5 cents (yes a nickle!) to $4.75, a compound growth rate of 5.86%. The first thing to gain from this is that I am a financial nerd that spends his days pounding through spreadsheets and drooling over growth rates. The second thing to take away is that it is generally assumed for inflation to be around 2% per year. The untrained eye may say, “Meh, what’s 6% compared to 2%?”. My math major friend Hunter would tell you, three times to be exact. If you assumed that inflation has been 3.26% since 1929 (which all of you who own stock or have jobs and see that number will tell me to go f&$k myself) then the numbers suggest that we should only be paying 65 cents for a bag of popcorn! That’s right people. 65 cents. I’ll trade you two quarters, a dime, and a nickel for the butteriest bag of popcorn you’ve got. Deal? We wish.

Now in defense of the movie theaters the popcorn buckets (I can’t even call them bags anymore) these days are large enough to smuggle in a compact VW Beetle and a small drink is big enough to purposefully drown yourself to keep from seeing another minute of a sparkling vampire in a Twilight movie, but still, we are getting f’d right under our noses! Whatever happened to free market economics? Where is the greasy-from-melted-butter invisible hand to keep prices down and protect the consumer? It seems these days that buying a movie ticket is like taking a time machine back to Communist Russia where you will pay the prices we set and you will like it! I say open those doors movie theaters. Rent out that space where you keep your outdated video games so I can watch my movie with a Big Mac and a Grande half-calf soy latee with extra foam. I would watch a day’s worth of Edward and Jacob battle it out over underage female supremacy if I could knock down a beef crunchwrap supreme with cinnetwists and a Baja Blast. But I digress. Since the government is oh so willing to overlook the bad behavior of the movie theater industry (probably because the movie theater execs are doing a little bad behavior of their own to keep it that way), it is up to the consumer to take things into their own hands. How might we do that you ask? To that I raise my baby huey sized “cup” of Mr. Pibb and say, “Triple Feature”.

Everyone that has listened to this story has assumed that the triple feature is some sort of promotion thought up by movie theater marketing gurus to increase viewership. Really? The same marketing gurus that try to convince you to run out of the theater right before the movie starts to buy a chili-dog combo pack complete with nachos and a star wars super class star destroyer size drink and then race back inside to see if you can keep from shitting or pissing yourself for three hours? No. The triple feature is a carefully planned middle finger to the movie theaters. In fact, if executed correctly, it also includes the thumb.

The middle finger: Planning. If a movie’s start time is 3:30, it doesn’t actually start until 3:45 due to previews. While movie execs are smart enough to figure out how to get you to pay a 6x premium on a bag of popcorn they have yet to discover a way to stagger movies so you can’t walk right out of one and into another that is about to start. The best way they could figure out to combat this problem is to put the next movie on the other side of the theater so you have to make an awkward walk back through the lobby but what 16 yr old pimply face movie theater employee is going to stop a strapping, young, handsome (and slightly insane) 23 year old like me?

The thumb: Smart-shopping. Yea I may be paying you $4.75 for this narwhale sized drink but the fact that I’m going to go dump it into another cup, refill, and repeat three times in the next 7 hours means the joke is on you sucka! Oh by the way I would also like to buy the refillable size popcorn. Did I say that first thing out loud? Dammit.

I know that there are some economists out there that would argue that I’m not actually sticking it to the movie theater and that what I am doing hurts the movie industry, the actors, and the thousands of employees that slaved away on each movie I watched (I’ll have to ask my stuggling actor friend Jerrod to get his opinion). These are the people that proudly follow the rules, no matter how “unruly” they may be. To them I say, try it. Instead of walking into the theater feeling like a 17th century agrarian farm-worker you are able to walk in as proud and tall as a knight returning to his maidens after an epic hand to hand battle. You confidently trade in your sword for a gallon of Mr. Pibb, your armor for another gallon of buttery, salty goodness, your steed for the sometimes-comfortable movie seat, and your dignity for 24 ounce bag of peanut m&ms you smuggled in. You then move effortlessly from “The Town” to “Let Me In” and finally to “Catfish” and after 7 hours of movies, two pounds of popcorn and drinks, and 24 ounces of chocolate covered heaven, you waddle proudly out of the theater as your actions silently but forcefully flip the bird to all those that watch you leave. If that’s not the American way to make an exit, I don’t know what is.

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Comments
13 Responses to “Giving Movie Theaters the Finger”
  1. ragrobyn says:

    “The thumb: Smart-shopping. Yea I may be paying you $4.75 for this narwhale sized drink but the fact that I’m going to go dump it into another cup, refill, and repeat three times in the next 7 hours means the joke is on you sucka! Oh by the way I would also like to buy the refillable size popcorn. Did I say that first thing out loud? Dammit.”

    Hahaha That is what I do! And bring ziplocks to dump the popcorn in for everyone in the row to share 😉

  2. tsonoda148 says:

    Hey ya’s Kluck……….as usual, you are right on the money. And Halleluiah on your math nerdiness! One of my sons’ is an actuarial for Blue Cross and you should hear some of his health care statistics! It would scare the bajeebees outta ya!
    And I’ve been around a lot of years, been to a LOT of movies (once a week whether I need it or not) and I’m so sick of the prices, I bring my own baggies full of almonds, candy and the like. One time we even smuggled in some “In and Out” burgers. We got busted though (probably cause they smelled so dang good), but only after we’d finished the last bite. Ha ha

    Great post! Look forward to many more from you.
    Terri

  3. Sherri says:

    “The first thing to gain from this is that I am a financial nerd that spends his days pounding through spreadsheets and drooling over growth rates.” LMAO. That was exactly my first thought. Great blog! Laughed all the way through it.

  4. Bronan says:

    My brother used to work in a movie theater, so naturally I scored about 3 years worth of movies for free until he graduated high school. Paying $7 – $10 is a ripoff.

    You nailed it with “what 16 yr old pimply face movie theater employee is going to stop a strapping, young, handsome (and slightly insane) 23 year old like me?” You get a geeky enough kid working the desk, and all you have to do is have the confidence to walk right by ’em. Helps to flash an old ticket stub and a look that says “Your ass is going to wind up in a locker if you dare to stop me.”

    I’m going to have to write about the time my roommates smuggled a case of PBR into a showing of “Spy Kids.”

  5. You are a great citizen. It’s not just a monopoly, it’s the CineMafia. I have been blogging about them for two years. Just search “CineMafia” in my blog and you will see how evil they really are!

    • kluckmeister says:

      I think at some point we might have to link up to take down the establishment. I am secretely infiltrating Hollywood as we speak by claiming my move to LA was for a “career outside of the movie industry.”

  6. intoyourstarryeyes says:

    I love – LOVE – this post =) I work part-time at my local movie theatre and while the prices don’t apply to me as I just swagger on into movies as I please grabbing a popcorn and drink as I go, I completely agree with everything you’ve said here and love to see that you’re doing your bit in an attempt to stick it to the people like my boss =) If you ever find yourself in Ireland I’ll treat you to a free Triple Feature as a thank you for making me laugh with your writing =)

  7. intoyourstarryeyes says:

    Of course it’d be worth the trip! Plus it would aid you in your attempt to take down the establishment – now you know someone working within the establishment =P

    You kids and your facebook these days. Oooookay… =P

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