you will have to pay more to see the most popular movies

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‘The Batman’ is already a success. Its international premiere in 74 countries, the weekend ended with 120 million dollars in collections. An amount that is added to the also spectacular 128.5 million in the United States a week before. The sum of almost 250 million collected already comfortably exceeds its budget of about 200 million dollars.

For Warner they are great news in setting up a new direction for the batman franchise, that not even Zack Snyder finished heading in a commercially satisfactory direction. With the figures in hand, it is the most successful Warner premiere since the pandemic began (although it has not managed to approach the absolutely explosive success of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, with 260 million in its first weekend). It remains to be seen what happens in the world’s largest market, China, where ‘The Batman’ is expected on March 18.

The legacy of the comic in 'The Batman': how the film gives itself completely to DC graphic novels

A real success that does not stop bringing its small element of surprise. The changes of interpreter for an iconic character are usually operations with a certain nuance of risk. In this case, the presence of Robert Pattinson was no guarantee of success, and ran into the initial rejection of the most fundamentalist fans of the character. The film proved just how wrong they were with what is possibly Batman’s darkest and most sinister adventure to date.

But although its turn towards dark terrain and the fortunate mixture with elements of film noir and horror are largely responsible for its critical success (86% on Rotten Tomatoes), there are additional elements that justify the overwhelming collection of the film, especially in the United States. Because ‘The Batman’ has done, in a certain sense, “cheat”: in the AMC cinema chain, the most powerful and widespread in the country, in addition to its direct competitors in size, tickets cost more than usual.

A raise for Batman

In the latest earnings report for its shareholders, The CEO of AMC reported that they would raise the price of tickets for the passes of ‘The Batman’. It was seen as a bold move at a time when theaters can’t yet afford to experiment with such aggressive policies, after revenue drops they’ve suffered from the pandemic. The excellent collection of ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ made it clear that the waters were returning to their course, but even so, a rise was a risk.

The truth is that although AMC has drawn more attention from the media as it is such an important chain, it is not the first to try out similar formulas. Two other chains, Regal and Cinemark, raised the price of the aforementioned ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ in addition to ‘The Batman’ itself. Some of those uploads for ‘The Batman’ have been:

  • AMC: $14.50 (vs. the usual $13.22)
  • gift: $13.44 (vs. $12.67)
  • cinemark: $11.25 (vs. $10.25)

The truth is that AMC has considerable debt problems, and these uploads launch a cable for that often forgotten link in distribution that is the theaters. In fact, after the announcement, AMC shares rose 4% the next day, and 1.2% the one after. It is clear that, despite the fact that it has been possible to win some bad press With the move, it has been beneficial for AMC, and some initial pessimistic forecasts that viewers would not go to theaters if prices were higher have not been fulfilled.

Another very different question, and one that should be assessed separately, is whether this rise in prices with very specific films is not dividing the premieres into classes, and gives a certain category of event and importance to superhero movies and other sperm whales of the mainstream. No one would think of raising the price of Scorsese’s latest movie, no matter how prestigious it may be, and that is risky for the cinema, not as a business, but at the level of image and public perception.

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story of a climb

Already in 2017, when the box offices began to suffer before the pandemic, various theater chains in the United States experimented with price increases under different criteria. Rooms with luxury experiences emerged that were partially imported to Spain, when the streaming It was beginning to grow at a speed that, even before COVID, presaged hard times for the big screen, and that offered dinner and more comfortable seats next to the projection.

And it is not the only option to justify price increases. Let us remember special presentations in 70 mm and the occasional presence of filmmakers (the most popular case: the tour from Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’), extras to pay for tickets to theaters that need very specific installations, such as IMAX… and sound failures such as the 4DX circus and its vibrating seats, among other sensations shot to the viewer’s epidermis.

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As a counterpoint to this strategy, in fact, and at the same time, Movie Pass opted for the opposite option: a pass that for less than ten dollars a month allowed you to go to the cinema once a day. It was the version of the Netflix free bar applied to theaters, and coming from a company external to the big exhibition chains (in fact, they did not lose money by allowing viewers access with the Movie Pass bonus). But it was the second largest chain in the United States, Regal Cinemas, which opted for a price that would vary (preferably upward) depending on how popular the releases were.

In other words, Regal instituted in some thirty theaters in 2018 what is known in the United States as surge pricingand which consists of raising the prices of the most successful films and lowering those of the premieres that are not going so wellsomewhat inspired by what the aviation industry or apps like Uber does, as explained by The Atlantic. Amy Miles, CEO of Regal, put it this way: “This test could be the first step toward a pricing model that drives revenue growth in peak periods and attendance growth in off-peak periods.”

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AMC followed at such an unlucky moment for the box office as the summer of 2019. His theory followed in the footsteps of Regal’s, with Adam Aron explaining at the time that “this is basic economic theory that goes back to the first microeconomics course we all took in college: charging more at peak times and for high-demand products, and charge less during off-peak hours”.

The exhibition problem then is the one that has worsened over the months and that we pointed out above: Disney and Warner They have implemented a model of block buster comfortable and addictive (because its narrative is serialized) that guarantees a huge success for those areas of the industry. But the independents and even the medium productions of the majors they arouse less and less interest for a public that prefers to consume this type of production at home.

'The Batman' enters unknown territory for superhero cinema: the mixture with the police

Aron emphasized when he presented his modality of surge pricing that it was not only a matter of shaking up the increasingly irregular box office of blockbusters, but also of stimulating that of small films with lower prices. The impulse that these types of films usually receive on Spectator Day (which in the United States is on Tuesdays) seems to respond to this.

But already then Variety formulated very well the undesired effect that this policy can arouse: “it’s hard to put a price on quality. Charging a lower rate signals to the audience that the movie might not be as good.. And then there is the question of how to price movies. How do you determine what constitutes a “best looking” movie? (…) And good luck to the distribution employee who has to tell a filmmaker that his film is not worth as much as one based on a comic book “.

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In addition, there is another point of tension in this policy: the exhibitors not only have to keep the producers happy (who may come to think that these price drops devalue the experience), but both parties have to sit down to negotiate how they divide the benefits. At the moment, price increases and decreases according to the popularity of a film, the surge pricingis beginning to spread to other countries: in some parts of Europe it is common practice and when China tried it a year ago now, turned the box office around.

Stimulus for assistance and multiplication of benefits or bread for today and hunger for tomorrow? The spectacular collection of ‘The Batman’ is another turning point for an experiment which should soon yield answers. With the streaming Gaining more and more fans and theaters unable to predict what the next hit will be beyond Marvel, Star Wars and DC releases, exhibitors had better.

‘The Batman’ is already a success. Its international premiere in 74 countries, the weekend ended with 120 million dollars in…

‘The Batman’ is already a success. Its international premiere in 74 countries, the weekend ended with 120 million dollars in…

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