Movies are as popular as ever, but rising ticket prices may be shutting many people out of the cinema | 1/20/2009 | Staff
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The UK cinema association announced late in 2018 that movie admissions were on course to hit 176m for the year, 6m more than in 2017 and the highest since the 1970s when blockbusters such as Star Wars and Jaws had people queuing round the block. This in an era of streaming, online sharing platforms and on-demand, on-the-go access to virtually any film, anywhere.

Against increasingly tougher odds, cinema-going remains the most popular form of cultural participation and public social engagement – and it is the same story pretty much wherever you look around the world.

Success - Story - Threat - Billions - Tickets

Behind this success story, though, lies a serious threat. Despite billions of tickets sold every year worldwide and box office revenue steadily increasing since the 1970s (reaching over US$40 billion in 2018) these numbers mask a gradual narrowing of the socioeconomic spectrum of cinema-going audiences.

If the trend of increasing ticket prices and the business models that underpin this increase continue, this staple form of public participation and communal engagement will lose its social function. Rising ticket prices will effectively exclude many of those for whom cinema was intended in the first place, resulting in its complete gentrification.

Part - Research - Cost - Movie - Tickets

As part of my research, I calculated the relative cost of movie tickets over the years and compared that with wages. It paints a bleak picture. Adjusted for inflation to give a contemporary perspective, attending a movie theatre in 1938 in the US (the year the Fair Labor Standards Act established the federal minimum hourly wage) cost the equivalent of US$4.14 (calculated by adjusting the original ticket price to January 2019 prices.

That meant that for every hour worked at minimum wage – then set at US$5.39 – film-goers would invest roughly 75% of one hour's work. In 2018, going to the cinema cost US$9.11 – so a minimum wage worker would...
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