As someone who works at a movie theater, I've grown familiar with guests complaining about the prices of movie tickets and concessions. People often tell me how movies were cheaper back in their day and how the price hike on concessions has become ridiculous. It causes many to wonder why things have gotten so expensive.
The reason things have gotten ridiculously expensive is actually quite simple, the theaters chains need to make money. You are all probably wondering how it's possible that theaters are desperate for money when massive blockbuster films released around summer and the holidays make huge amounts of money. That's because, despite the massive business theaters get, little of that money actually goes to the theaters.
While estimates are not consistent and prices vary between theater chains, theaters only receive between 20% to 30% of the money made on ticket sales. The rest goes to the studios who actually made the film, the theater only distributes it. This means that most of the money theaters make have to come from concession sales.
Concession sales have really gone up in price over the last few years and there are several factors that have lead to that. The most important factor, however, was the rise of the internet and streaming services. Streaming services allowed better access to films and avoided the cost of having to go out and pay big prices to see a film at a specific time. You can watch films and television whenever you wanted for a smaller fee and at the touch of a button.
Theaters are still feeling the hit from this and, just like in the 50s, are using gimmicks to try and get people to see films in a theater. They install reclining seats, bars, more expensive foods at concessions, and 3D. These gimmicks do give people reason to see films in theaters rather than just waiting for it to end up on Netflix, but it comes at a high cost. These have all transformed theater going into more of a low level luxury item than something almost anyone could go to back in the day.
Back in the early days all you needed was a dime to see a film on the big screen, but back in those days it was the only screen. Now we have theater screens, television screens, and computer screens all competing for our attention. With streaming becoming a better option for busy adults on a tight budget, theaters are slowly but surely transforming into a luxury; something that people do if they have both the money and the time.
As streaming becomes more prevalent theaters will only get more opulent and, therefor, expensive. Theaters were always somewhat of a luxury item, but now theater chains are moving that bar higher and higher with each passing year. It wouldn't surprise me if, at some point, theater going becomes a luxury for the extremely wealthy similar to plays, opera, ballet, concert orchestras, or art gallery displays. Only time will tell.