Movie theaters are slowly coming back into everyday life, largely thanks to the blockbuster efforts from major movie studios like Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. Spider-Man: No Way Home became the sixth-highest grossing movie ever for the MCU while Doctor Strange 2 looks to rival those totals, and WB's The Batman made its own mark at the ticket booth with over $750 million globally as well.
As more movies continue to release over the rest of the year, the box office will likely continue to come back to almost what it was before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic made its mark on the movie-going experience. Marvel Studios has two potential money-makers left this year in Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever while DC has Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam and Zachary Levi's Shazam!: Fury of the Gods, although it's not just the movies themselves that are boosting box office returns.
Ahead of The Batman's release, AMC announced that the company would implement surge pricing for certain movies, meaning that those tickets would be anywhere from $1 to $1.50 more during the first week of release. Now, as new hit movies prepare to make their mark on the big screen, it appears that the superhero genre will continue along this path for the foreseeable future.
Marvel & DC Likely to Experience Ticket Surge
Variety spoke with AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron about the extra charges on ticket prices for high-profile movies from Marvel and DC.
Aron noted that this strategy turned out to be a massive success, which came from only adding $1 to the ticket prices, rather than going so far as to double it:
"It was a big success. We look at our marketshare on The Batman, and we clearly did better by charging that dollar premium. And it was only $1. It’s not like we charged double the price. There was so much demand that people were willing to pay."
Aron made sure that this move was one that viewers knew about, believing in transparency on subjects like this. He made it clear that it wasn't so that the company could brag about it, but so that fans could see exactly what was happening financially:
"It’s pretty simple. We’re a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. And when you do important things, there’s a duty to talk about it publicly. As a company, we believe in transparency. We don’t want to hide what we’re doing. We don’t want to brag about what we’re doing… but we don’t want to hide what we’re doing. Why they didn’t talk about it, you’d have to ask them."
When asked whether ticket prices would increase for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and other upcoming Marvel movies, Aron couldn't comment on the matter, but he did say that fans will know exactly what tickets will cost:
"The good news is that I love following the law. And laws of the United States do not allow me to talk about pricing in advance. I’m only allowed to talk about pricing activity retrospectively. I can’t make any public comment. Tickets will go on sale, and people will know what we are charging."
The case will be exactly the same for art house films and movies that have been in theaters for a while, as Aron couldn't comment on the matter but reassured readers that the ticket prices will be transparent based on supply and demand:
"Same answer to a similar question. It’s illegal for me to talk about pricing going forward. I can’t speculate. If you go back to the laws of supply and demand, which is the first thing that they teach you in an economics class, it does say that when demand is high prices rise, and when demand is low prices fall.
The company executive again confirmed that AMC has been "better off from having charged a $1 premium" on movies like The Batman. This also includes using programs like Discount Tuesdays and varying matinee prices:
"All I can say is that on The Batman, we know that we’re better off from having charged a $1 premium. We have plenty of discount programs that we’ve actively had been embracing: Discount Tuesdays; we rejigged all of our matinee pricing strategies last year; and A-list, our subscription program."
This is becoming standard practice for other theater outlets such as Regal Cinemas and Cinemark Theaters as well.
Ticket Price Surge Helping Theaters Immensely
The movie-going experience has had to go through countless adjustments over the past couple of years, particularly after more than a year when movies were sent straight to streaming services upon release. While films like the ones from Marvel and DC have certainly helped to bring theaters back in and of themselves, this new pricing strategy seems to have done wonders for theaters that house these big-budget blockbusters.
While Aron did not explicitly state whether subsequent releases, like future Marvel Studios films, would experience price surges like The Batman, the financial success of the pricing strategy and the willingness to pay from consumers heavily indicates that this will become the norm for big blockbusters. In theory, this should allow theater chains to gain from bigger movie releases, in turn enabling them to take a hit on smaller, indie movies that are less likely to earn high numbers.
As the movie industry continues to recover to what it was more than two years ago, it's becoming clear that this small ticket price increase for top-billed movies won't be going away anytime soon. The best part is that it will help everybody involved in the process from the studios that make the movies to the theaters that play them on the big screen, all while only coming with a small increase in money from fans.
DC's next theatrical outing will be Dwayne Johnson's Black Adam, which debuts in theaters on October 21. Marvel will return with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on May 6.