The $12.50 Movie Takes a Brief Bow
[New York Times,
25 December 2005]
By RICHARD MORGAN
When plans for the latest incarnation of the historic Ziegfeld Theater on West 54th Street were announced in 1967, the average price of a movie ticket nationwide was $1.22, roughly $6.50 in today's dollars. When ''The Producers'' opened at the Ziegfeld a week and a half ago, tickets cost $12.50, a record high for a standard movie in the city, said Jim Kozak, a spokesman for the National Association of Theater Owners.
In a city where any bump in the price of an item considered a necessity -- a slice, a subway ride -- is considered an event of major significance, this was no small matter.
Moviegoers have paid similar prices before, but those have been special-format productions such as IMAX or 3-D. The high price seemed weirdly fitting, given that the Broadway version of ''The Producers,'' which opened in April 2001, also commanded then-astonishing ticket prices of $100 for the best seats.
The increase was to apply only from Dec. 16 through yesterday, when the Ziegfeld was to be the only place in New York showing the movie. Los Angeles and Chicago theaters, though they had similar exclusive showings, did not raise ticket prices, according to ticket clerks at both theaters. Today, when it goes into wider release, prices at the Ziegfeld revert to their normal $10.75. But the high price touched a nerve.
''Twelve-fifty?'' demanded Maggie Flaherty, an Upper East Sider who clapped shut her purse as she left the ticket line at the Ziegfeld and headed off to spend her evening elsewhere. ''For what? Two hours? When you add up popcorn and Coke and Raisinets, I might as well just go have a few cocktails with friends instead.''
But some customers paid the $12.50 without complaint, perhaps considering it normal in a world where bottled water at a theater can cost $4.
''I was surprised when I paid $12.50,'' said Joshua Bennett, a 30-year-old actor who lives in East Harlem, ''but of course I have to go see it. And it's only $2 more.''
Although he was sporting a rugged beard from a current stint on the national tour of ''Oklahoma!,'' Mr. Bennett played a clean-shaven dancing Nazi storm trooper in the film. With friends, he attended a Monday night showing at which fewer than 50 of the theater's nearly 1,200 seats were filled.
The high price, some suggested, was driven by the high expectations for the movie, given the success of the Broadway musical that inspired it. ''If you charge more money for something, especially a show you expect will sell out, you get more money,'' said Mr. Kozak, of the theater owners association.
The lavish Ziegfeld is a throwback to the great movie palaces of another era. Customers pass under 11 chandeliers en route to their seats, and the cavernous auditorium is awash in regal reds and golds.
''Customers do have a choice,'' said Beth Simpson Crimmins, a spokeswoman for Clearview Cinemas, which owns the theater, noting that New Yorkers who wanted to pay less could wait until the movie appeared in other theaters. ''And there's a premium associated with that.''
back to home page