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One Price Fits Us Just Fine

August 01, 1993

Regarding "One Price Doesn't Fit All," in which producer Robert W. Cort suggests variable pricing of movie tickets (July 25):

I can't imagine any studio or producer agreeing to their films being shown for 1 cent less than the top ticket price when they open. Would Mel Brooks and 20th Century Fox ("Robin Hood: Men in Tights") agree to a lesser ticket price than charged for Philip Kaufman and 20th's "Rising Sun"? Not! Would Cort have accepted a $7.50 ticket price for "Three Men and a Baby" but $4 for "Cocktail"? Again, not!

Yes, people will pay a higher price for an NBA playoff ticket or to see "The Phantom of the Opera," but that might be because they are offered in a single venue--the Forum or the Shubert--and not the 2,000 to 3,000 screens that the major films now open in nationally.

As to adjusting prices after opening, it is conceivable that the public might pay more for a "Jurassic Park" or "The Firm," but would Columbia agree to reduce its ticket prices for "Last Action Hero" because it wasn't performing to expectations? Again, not!

A bad movie is a bad movie. I made a film titled "The Howling II," probably one of the Top 50 worst films in history. Believe me, I don't think a lower ticket price would have increased the "must-see" crowd. Same number of people, just less income.

Lastly, Cort's whole premise is based on cooperation between producers, distributors and exhibitors that could never happen.

At the end of the day, if the public likes it, whether it costs $3 million or $100 million, they go.

STEVEN LANE

Lane & Pringle Productions

Chatsworth

*

Cort's concept of pricing movies differently according to "value" is both innovative and challenging. Several good arguments are presented "pro" his idea.

The "con," which was overlooked, is the distinct possibility that exhibitors with a hit will hike prices into the stratosphere or that scalpers, the bane of sports and theater marketing, would enter the picture.

At the risk of appearing old-fashioned, I like to know what the price of the movie "meal" is before I order it. Market forces are already at work in second-run theaters, senior citizen discounts, ticket books and so on.

FRANK FILOSA

Beverly Hills

*

Cort's price scheme smacks of censorship. Someone telling me what movie I can or can't--what I should or shouldn't--see, based on the price, is a kind of censorship by economics.

The only way I have of telling the "industry" what I want to see, will see and want to see more of is by going to the movies and buying my ticket. I determine whether I can afford to go, based on personal choice. If Cort's scheme were implemented, only the opinions of people with enough money to see all movies would be heard. Those who could afford to see only the "lesser," less-expensive-ticket films would send a skewed message.

The moviegoing public is not concerned with how much it costs to make a film, only that the film entertain, amuse or amaze us in some way. To set ticket prices according to the cost, or on the basis of some industry committee whose taste I may or may not agree with, is idiotic.

Cort should stick to making movies and allow the moviegoing public to determine their popularity and box-office success.

ELINOR M. BECKMAN

North Hollywood

*

Cort's article is a trial balloon to see if a scheme to wring yet more money out of the movie-going public by jacking up prices is at least marginally palatable. Some things to bear in mind while considering such a plan:

* The fact that the movie business is holding its own three years running is reason to celebrate, given the continuing explosion of cable and new high-resolution technologies such as laser discs.

* Higher ticket prices, even for such "must-see" movies as "Jurassic Park," will cause a lot of people to wait for the prices to drop before trekking to the theater.

* Blockbuster movies rely on repeat business to reach their astronomical domestic grosses. A variable-price ticket strategy would discourage the repeat viewers the industry needs most: the teens who are their summer bread and butter.

* The consumer already discriminates, by deciding sometimes to wait for a film to come out on video or on cable.

Cort is right in asserting that the consumer is price sensitive. If the industry wants to find out just how price-sensitive we really are, just try pulling this one on us.

MICHAEL HEISTER

Redlands

*

Twelve dollars to see "Jurassic Park"? Ten dollars to see "The Firm"?

The real problem with Cort's proposal is that ticket prices for big-budget hits would inevitably creep higher and higher, as marketers labored to convince the public of a new film's unprecedented level of accomplishment and worth. Eventually Cort's "re-educated" consumer could be trained to consider $12 admissions dirt cheap, right?

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