Yesterday afternoon, I was chatting with my brother and during our conversation I asked him if he had been to the cinema to watch Solo: A Star Wars Story? Knowing that he likes going to the cinema and he’s a big Star Wars fan, I figured the answer would be a simple “yes”.

The answer wasn’t a simple yes, instead he explained that while he would really like to see Solo: A Star Wars Story, there was something that was stopping him – the cost of the cinema ticket! He couldn’t justify shelling out for another cinema ticket, having paid to see Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 all within the space of the same month.

My brother lives in Edinburgh and his local cinema charges around £12-£13 for an adult ticket. As he tends to go to the cinema with his wife, this means he’s paying around £25+ for every visit, not including travel costs and/or snacks.

To watch Infinity War and Deadpool 2 it has cost £50 and while he enjoyed both movies, whatever way you cut it, £50 for two films is just too expensive. Adding Solo into the mix is now out of the question, because it’s simply too much of an extravagance to crank this up to £75 for three films.

I’ll be honest, I can’t possibly disagree with his reasoning, especially when we both know the films will be available on DVD or on-demand within three months’ time for £10 a pop. Sure, it’s not the same as watching the movie at the cinema, but £10 for both he and his wife to watch a film just makes financial sense and I’m pretty sure this is how a lot of people feel right now.

Popcorn02

At present, I’m pretty lucky; I live in Manchester City Centre, where we have two multiplexes – Vue and Odeon. For the past year, due to a change of locations with both cinemas, the chains have been in local competition with each other resulting in customers benefiting greatly.

The current cost of a cinema ticket at Vue Printworks or Odeon Great Northern has been reduced to just £4.99 – any time, any day. On a Monday, Vue even reduces this to £3.99.

For me these prices are the perfect price point, being half the cost of a DVD and around a third of the cost of a Blu-ray. Why wait three months to see a movie when I can see it at the cinema for a fraction of the cost?

Of course, I appreciate the price plans for both cinemas won’t remain like this forever and sooner or later both will revert to their original price points, which for Odeon is around £12 a ticket. When that happens, I will find myself in a similar predicament to my brother.

Back when I used to pay this price for an adult ticket, I too had to choose very carefully what to watch. Big blockbusters were at the top of the list; middle-of-the-road films barely got a look in; and independent or low budget films simply had to go. The result? For a period of time I simply missed a lot of really good movies because cinema chains were asking far too much from my monthly wage.

Things did improve for a while, thanks in large part to the introduction of the Odeon Limitless Card, which offered me unlimited monthly viewing for £17.99. For a while – until the Odeon switched locations – the Limitless Card became a lifeline, opening up my viewing habits considerably.

Having the ability to watch as many films as I wanted for less than the cost of two movies was a no-brainer. What sealed the deal was the fact that I lived within five minutes of my local Odeon, so it was convenient and there were no added travel costs.

Of course, this option is open to my brother as he can access an Odeon in Edinburgh, but as he doesn’t live in the city centre, he’s reluctant to pay out £17.99 + travel costs to go to the pictures. His reasoning is that some months there will be lots of films, other months not so much, and this will mean he will be paying £17.99 on months where he may only go to the cinema once or not at all.

Again, I can’t disagree with this logic. The movie industry’s release schedule is a bit of a jumbled mess, with too many movies coming out at the same time some months and too few movies coming out at other times.

movies

Where does this leave my brother? Well, he’s pretty much stuck where he is at the moment, having to pick and choose films and this means both he and the movie studios are missing out. He can’t afford to watch the films he would like to see and movie studios can’t convince him to part with his cash when he’s already spent up on the competition.

So what’s the solution?

In my opinion the solution is two-fold: Better pricing and a better release schedule.

The price point is key – it has to be. If a cinema chain is asking punters to pay more to watch a film than it would cost them to own the movie in as little as three months time, then something is seriously wrong.

I appreciate cinemas have to give a huge chunk of the ticket receipts to the movie studios (pretty much all of the money you pay) and they have their own overheads (staff, electric etc), but if they are pricing customers out of the equation then they’re never going to get bums on seats. Limitless Cards and the like are of course a start, but they’re not the solution as these cards tend to only appeal to the dedicated film fanatic – a better pricing plan needs to be the way forward to cater for all audience types.

Of course, that pesky release schedule also needs to be addressed. As much as I love the fact that Infinity War, Deadpool 2 and Solo have all come out in quick succession, it really is too many films all hitting at the same time, especially when you factor in the imminent arrival of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in less than two weeks’ time.

If schedules are to remain like this, then then studios need to expect people to simply skip the cinema altogether. No one has an unlimited amount of disposable income.

There’s always a lot of talk about what puts people off going to the cinema (audience members talking during the movie, phone’s being used, uncomfortable seating etc), but pricing surely has to be one of the main factors, if not the main factor. Unless this is addressed now, I fear we will see a greater reduction in cinema attendance for big blockbusters and pretty much no cinema attendance for small films.

But what do you think?

Does the cost of a cinema ticket put you off going to the cinema? If all cinema chains charged £4.99 would you go more often?

Sound off in the comments and let me know your thoughts.