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Robbins: Milk Dud inflation at the movies

POSTED: April 28, 2014 1:00 a.m.

There are two reasons why the 2013 “film” “Grown Ups 2” made $133 million at the box office while actual movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “Clear and Present Danger” made millions less.

The first reason is: Insanity. The second reason is: Inflation.

“Pulp Fiction” and “Clear and Present Danger” were both released in 1994, and both received positive reviews. They grossed $107 million and $122 million, respectively. But the average movie ticket in 1994 was $4.18. In 2013, it was $8.13.

Doing the math, that means 16 million suckers paid to see “Grown Ups 2” at a movie theater, while 25 million paid to see “Pulp Fiction.” Not a true gauge of popularity, is it?

I bring this up because I was recently suckered into going to the movies again. To clarify, I love movies, but for some reason I couldn’t quite remember, I hadn’t been to an actual movie theater since I saw “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” with my kids in 2008.

After entering the movie theater, paying for my family’s tickets, popcorn and drinks, I remembered why I hadn’t been to the movies in six years: It’s hideously expensive. By the time I got seated in the theater for the previews, I had spent $85.

Now, I understand these folks have to make a living, and someone has to pay for Tom Cruise’s life coach, but making a bag of popcorn costs about 60 cents to make. I don’t know what it costs to make a Milk Dud, but I doubt it’s $5 for 40 of them. My God, they’re made of milk and duds.

According to a recent CNN/Money report, the mark-up for movie theater popcorn is 900 percent. The report didn’t mention the mark-up for Milk Duds, which I consider a journalistic failure.

So with this unreasonable inflation, why in the world would anyone still go to the movies?

There are a couple of reasons I can think of, off the top of my head.

One is that people want to have the “movie experience.” That is particularly acute these days with all the technological advances they’ve made in cinema, like 3-D and technicolor and what-not. My family and I recently watched “Gravity” at home and immediately recognized that this was a film that would be better viewed in a wide-screen, movie-theater format.

Secondly, once I paid $8 a head to get into the movie theater, I didn’t really care anymore. I call it the “what-the-heck” effect. Like when you go to dinner at a nice restaurant, see the exorbitant prices of the entrees, and say “what the heck. I’m already spending more money than I want to. What’s the difference in buying a shrimp cocktail appetizer?” (It’s $14, dummy).

So, what is a person to do who enjoys the “movie experience” a theater provides but doesn’t want to get a loan to do so?

Well, you don’t have to buy their concessions. Then you’ll only have to pay the ticket price.

A warning about taking this approach: The movie theater people may search your jacket if, while purchasing your ticket, you ask: “Do you have a microwave oven I can borrow for two minutes and 40 seconds?”

They also get very persnickety if you try to sneak beer into a movie theater, from what I’ve been told. And Milk Duds. And a video camera.

Oh, yeah. Now I remember why I hadn’t been to a movie theater since 2008.

Len Robbins is editor and publisher of the Clinch County News in Homerville. His column appears weekly.


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