May 29, 2007
Summer Movie Economics
The last few weeks in May mark the start of the summer movie season, when Hollywood places big cinematic bets and hopes the seats in front of the screen will be filled with the likes of you and me.
The business of the movie business has always fascinated me, especially after my stint as a theater usher a number of years ago. In fact, I was present for the first great summer movie event -- Jaws -- which began the current summer blockbuster movie approach to filmmaking. I learned that while movie ticket revenues mattered to the studios, sales of popcorn, candy and soda mattered to the folks who run the theaters.
According to this index, the average cost of a movie ticket in the mid-’70s was about $2. Last year's average was $6.55 -- though most of us can't get in to see a film for less than $9 or so. So how long do you have to work to afford a movie ticket?
According to blogger Gary Picariello (looks like I'm not the only person interested in these statistics), the Cinema Index shows the US is the second-cheapest place to go to the movies, after India. It takes just 24 minutes of work to pay for a ticket, based on an average US net hourly income of $15.20. Hmmm.
How about comparing to the minimum wage? Back in the mid-’70s, the minimum wage was $2.10 per hour, so a ticket cost just about an hour's work. But at 2006 prices and minimum wage rates, the average ticket costs more than an hour and a quarter of work time. Add in those snack bar goodies, and the total could be three hours or more.
With budgets now exceeding $300 million per film (or more than the entire GDP of a small country like the Federated States of Micronesia), it's worth considering what a movie is worth to you.
So here are a couple of plugs: You can find the blockbusters everywhere -- but try to go and see Away from Her and The Lives of Others before they leave your neighborhood art cinema. Both are worth the ticket price, no matter how long you have to work to pay for it.
If you'd like to work less to earn the cost of a ticket, consider these salary negotiation resources:
- “Power Relationships and Negotiation”
- “Salary Negotiation Know-How”
- Salary & Negotiation Tips message board
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