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Arts & Entertainment

The forces behind film prices

Should the cost of all movie tickets be the same?
Should the cost of all movie tickets be the same?

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You wouldn't pay the same price to fly in mediocre economy class as you would for the privilege of flying executive class. So why pay the same lousy twelve bucks to watch rotten-tomato “The Raven” as you would for big-screen blockbuster "The Avengers"? Economists call this confusing phenomenon: "uniform prices for differentiated goods," in other words, the same price tag on apples and oranges.

And it's not just the quality of a movie that should impact its worth. Just as plane tickets cost more during the summer, the demand for movie night spikes on the 4th of July, Christmas and a smattering of other holidays throughout the year.

So why don't ticket prices go down during down times? Would you be more inclined to go to the theater in the off-season if there were off-season prices? What's the risk to studios and theaters if movies are priced according to quality? Is it possible they would make more money with variable pricing? If a Razzie nominee for Worst Picture cost just $4, would you go?


Barak Orbach, Professor at the University of Arizona's School of Law

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC and Box Office Magazine