Beyond inflation, movie and concession prices soar
As Hollywood studios and movie theaters celebrated the surge in revenue in January and February, tech blog Gizmodo did a little quick arithmetic on Friday and dug up a sobering fact for connoisseurs of movie theaters and their concession stands.Even with inflation considered, the blog found that consumers still pay 66 percent more for movie tickets today than in 1929, and—wait for it—666 percent more for a bag of popcorn. The numbers are based on an average price of 35 cents for a movie in 1929 (or $4.32 adjusted) versus $7.20 today, whereas popcorn once cost a nickel per bag (62 cents adjusted) but today goes for an average of $4.75.
Those are pretty drastic numbers, but of course, it would be a mistake to take them too far. For one thing, movie concessions were a relatively novel practice in 1929. They didn’t get a larger push until the Great Depression in the 1930s, which means they weren’t as integral to theater revenues as they are today. More important, by one study's research, a staggering 65 percent of Americans were weekly moviegoers in 1930, which tapered down to 10 percent in the 1960s after a landmark Supreme Court decision had crippled vertically integrated old Hollywood. Attendance never rose much higher than that again.
Put another way, it’s no secret that tickets alone hardly make exhibitors any money today. In fact, as Gizmodo points out, theater owners have long claimed exorbitant concession prices help keep the price of tickets lower. So, in all, it isn’t easy to parse exactly what it means that we pay 666% more for popcorn now than back in the day, but that amusingly exact number alone is probably worth at least some pause.
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