U.S. movie ticket sales strong despite price hike

16:57, April 07, 2010      

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U.S. moviegoers are showing few signs of balking at higher ticket prices, which means a gamble by theater chains to raise revenue, especially on 3-D films, could pay off.

"Just on the face of it, especially from a revenue standpoint, it doesn't appear that the increase in ticket prices is hurting the industry," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com's box office tracking unit.

It has been less than two weeks since higher prices were introduced at many theaters, including locations operated by AMC Entertainment Inc, Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark, owned by Cinemark Holdings Inc.

A survey of 10 theaters in different U.S. cities conducted by analysts with BTIG found that tickets had increased an average 8.3 percent for 3-D screenings, with tickets going to $14.73 on March 26 from $13.60 on March 24.

The increase was less for 2-D showings, whose prices rose more than 4 percent to $10.73 from $10.30 during the same time period, BTIG said.

This past weekend marked the highest grossing April weekend ever, with U.S. and Canada ticket sales of $182 million.

"Clash of the Titans" was the weekend's box office champion with $61.2 million in ticket sales in the United States and Canada. More than half of that came from 3-D showings.

The action movie's success comes after the animated 3-D family film, "How to Train Your Dragon", opened below expectations, but went on to perform strongly this past weekend by declining only 34 percent to $29 million.

FAMILIES MAY SPURN INCREASES

In raising prices for 3-D films, theaters were reacting to higher demand for such movies.

Richard Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG, said it was still early in the price change, but the strong Easter weekend box office was "a very encouraging sign that consumers didn't seem overly concerned about the ticket price increases."

But Dergarabedian said the consumers most likely to eventually balk at the higher prices could be parents attending 3-D films with their children.

"You start feeling that multiple if each ticket is a dollar more or two dollars more," he said.

It was unclear how much ticket prices have risen across the United States because theater chains have given few details.

But AMC, the second-largest U.S. chain, said in a statement that new technology costs more and "some of those costs will eventually appear at the box office."

Regal Entertainment declined to comment.

Cinemark said in a statement that it had raised its prices about 1 to 2 percent.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

(Editor:王寒露)

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