Theaters will charge premium on 2D movies in order to lower the cost of 3D movie tickets

Writing for Screen Trade Magazine Joe Paletta, CEO of Spotlight Theaters, announces that cinemas will begin to eliminate the premium charges on 3D movies and raise the prices of 2D movies to make up the difference. This gives me the rage. 3D movies give me a headache and eye-strain, and I actively avoid them. I hate the idea that I'd be charged a premium on the few 2D movies I can find in order to subsidize 3D screenings.

As Roger Ebert put it, "Oh, no! In a move to recoup their unwise investment in 3D, theaters discuss, and I quote, 'patrons will have a single price for both 2D and 3D films. 2D prices will increase and 3D prices will decrease.' In other words, punishing those who dislike 3D."

Among the bigger changes will probably see the 3D-upcharge disappear. 3D charges will help increase the overall ticket-price but, as an industry, I think we’ll see a blend begin to emerge in 2012, where patrons will have a single price for both 2D and 3D films. 2D prices will increase and 3D prices will decrease.

Joe Paletta - screentrade

(Image: 3D glasses, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mattneale's photostream)


  1. Adding reasons for people- any people at all- to not see a film in theatres isn’t in their best interest.

  2. wait wait wait… stop the presses… people still pay to see movies in theaters?
    there are still presses?

    so 20th century…

  3. I wonder if this will affect only the larger theatre chains that show 3D films. I rarely ever go to films at a multiplex, preferring my smaller art cinemas (and they’re already cheaper than multiplex 2D film tix.) 

    1. The local multiplex, here in the retirement community full of cheap, cranky people with bad eyesight, just decided to show John Carter only in 3D.  I wonder if they got even one seat filled.

      1. I saw John Carter twice, and both times saw it in 2D. Once I went with a friend who has no depth perception, and the other time I went with my aunt who gets migraines from 3D screenings!

    1. “I believe that the man who invents a means of producing a perfect stereo motion picture will have accomplished the greatest achievement since the first motion picture . . .  today, the motion pictures projected on the most perfect screen are lacking in solidity and relief.  If the characters could only be made to stand out as they do in stereopticon pictures, and still retain the action of motion pictures of today, I think the ultimate would be reached by the cinema.”-Harold Lloyd, 1929

  4. But how am I supposed to experience fantasy-indoctrination for upper-middle class white Americans from a huge screen without going to theaters? *hyperventilates*

    1. Just wait until the next Hobbit movie or Star Wards 3D or whatever comes out. They’ll find a way to charge extra for high-profile 3D movies, this is just an excuse to raise prices on 2Ds, just like every world event is an excuse to raise gas prices.

      1. Well the commemorative lanyards will be totally worth the non-optional $5 to see that high-profile movie on the first weekend.

        Think of the excitement! The wonder! The non-assigned seating with some jerkwad talking through an entire film while an understaffed management is too busy retraining 16 year-olds how to work a popcorn warmer to be of any assistance!

          1. Next time you’re dealing with “understaffed management,” try the magic words, “handle this idiot or give me a refund.” 

      2. ITYM Titanic 3D, coming to a theatre near you in April.

        Why are they so stupid to give people more reasons to download, and then wonder why people do it?

        “It is not me, is you.”

  5. came here to post my thoughts, but everyone else has it summed up pretty well. just one more (in a long list) of reasons for me to not go out to see movies.

  6. Another person with eye strain and headache issues. Wonder if there’s an ADA lawsuit potential mostly just to throw a wrench in charging extra scheme. 

  7. Oh, goody! Since I don’t have binocular vision, and 3D films are a non-starter for me, I’m so happy to be given a chance to pay for it anyway! Also, thanks for reminding me why I have been in a movie theater exactly twice in the last fifteen years. It wasn’t my idea either time.

  8. Sounds like another good reason to skip theaters. Between cable, renting, streaming, and the relatively low prices of used dvds and vhs tapes, you can watch a lot of movies without paying those outrageous prices.

    Do you think this will catch on, though? A few theaters start jacking up their prices on 2D films in order to subsidize 3D films, and competitors could just maintain their lower ticket prices for 2D films. Unless large theater chains are colluding to keep prices high…


    1. Precisely.  When 3D is no longer the main purpose of the film and it just *is* (like sound and color) it’s immersive (see “Pina”)

  9. It’s like Hollywood is full of out-of-touch self-aggrandizing people who believe they can do no wrong!

    At this rate, I give them another twenty years before they utterly collapse. Time enough to clean up their act, but only if they realize their flaws and try to correct them.

    1. The thing is, it’s not Hollywood (or, more precisely, those who work in the film production industry) making this call. It’s the theater chains nationwide, who are making slimmer and slimmer profit margins as fewer and fewer people go to the films and as the money gets eaten up by the lopsided deals they sign with the vertically-integrated studios. They’re flailing around, trying to do whatever they can to put butts in the seats. Unfortunately, they going about it in seemingly haphazard fashion and probably spiraling further down the drain. 

      It’s a pity — I still enjoy sitting in a giant, darkened theater and watching a film unspool (a term itself soon to make no sense) before me. There’s still that ‘experience’ part of the moviegoing experience that I can’t get at home — and yet I rarely find myself actually seeing films in their natural habitat, despite the fact that it’s something I enjoy. 

  10. Time to boycott the theaters… we need direct to home rentals for initial releases now. We’re already starting to see this a little bit and it will only become more common over time.

    1.  Good luck. As you might already know, this is one of those “nerd rage” things that aggravates somewhere between two and five percent of the movie-going population.

      The other ninety-five to ninety-eight percent are more than willing to ignore all of this in order to shell out eighteen dollars for Transformers 5: Blowing up more stuff

  11. So, let me get this straight – ALL theaters will begin charging extra for 2-D movies, or just those theaters that are a part of the Spotlight chain ?

    Because, there are no Spotlight theaters anywhere near here. Lucky for me, I guess, until those bastards at AMC hear about what Spotlight are doing.

    1. From the article, it’s not clear that anyone will be doing it.  It’s phrased as a prediction for what he expects to see happen in the industry this year.  Presumably his prediction is based on some first hand knowledge about what’s happening in theaters, such as his own chain, but it’s not stated that way.  I’d guess that a particular chain wouldn’t try it unless they knew others would be doing the same thing, though.

      1. “Many of these changes are already taking place today at Spotlight Theatres’ Parkside Main location in Greensboro. ”

        He says “many” but he doesn’t say which.  Very nice. So some of these predictions are things that are such good ideas that Spotlight will do it, while others are things that Spotlight won’t do, just all those OTHER theatre chains are going to do, for reasons that don’t apply to Spotlight?

  12. Let me get this straight.  My wallet is to be punished with a higher charge for seeing a 2D movie which doesn’t leave me with a migraine because the industry jumped onto a bandwagon that wasn’t tried and true?  They want to recoup their bad investment on the backs of those of us who prefer not to watch a 3D boondoggle?

    Methinks I will not be spending anymore of my time or money at their theatres. 

    1.  and don’t forget that you’re also getting a crappier version of those movies more often than not, because most theaters don’t remove the 3D lenses for the 2D showings. With those lenses still in place, many 2d movies are much MUCH darker than they should be, sometimes as much as 50%.

      So you get to pay more for something the theater is half-assing to begin with. Aren’t we so lucky?

  13. Did some theaters not invest in 3D? Those guys must be happy with their choice. They should be able to attract more people now, and they can expand their 2D business.

  14.  3d is just such a worthless gimmick. it adds nothing to the film except 10+ minutes of shitty “OH! IT’S 3D” shots that totally break the flow of the movie. i wish it would just go away.

  15. And in other hot breaking news,  the industry will start blaming illegal downloading for further loss of audience & revenue.

  16. Somebody should remind these clowns that a 42 inch HD TV now costs about $400 bucks and movie theater butter popcorn can be made in a microwave.  These dinosaurs need to find a way to become relevant before they turn into fossils.

    1. Oh, they know. Did you see the bit about 

      “Another thing to watch out for will be the studios’ push to keep reducing theatrical release windows. Indeed, some are already testing the waters with a resultant strong exhibitor-pushback. I expect to see this play out more in 2012.”

      Translated from the mixture of euphemism and assumptions about his industry’s self-evident right to exist, that’s basically “Some of the studios have been experimenting with forcing us to compete on something approaching a level footing with home-video options. It was a bloodbath and we went crying home to demand protection.”

      All the fluff and nonsense about individualized customer experiences and twitfeeding the concession stands and whatnot is basically shoved in as a footnote after that. 

      That might actually be the one sense in which piracy is, in fact, killing movie theatres: Most of the market is lazy and/or honest enough that if they can pay for the movie when and where they want it, and for not too much money, they just won’t bother with the hassle of pirating it. However, ‘when and where they want it’ is incompatible with traditional nonsense like gargantuan deltas between theatre and rental/retail release, or US/UK release. Sensibly(if far too slowly) some of the studios appear to be waking up to the fact that they’ll make out better if they just suck it up and start shoving product onto pallets and packets on day 1, rather than trying to play touchy little price-discrimination games while the war3z d00ds prep a release for them. 

      It won’t be the old bogey of ‘lost sales'(pirates, with their comparatively small numbers and elastic demand curves, never actually seem to turn into customers nearly as well as their compulsive hoarding of sometimes-never-even-watched files suggests to the naive or dishonest); but the painful experience of having to compete directly with swift release-to-home of legitimate product that really cuts them badly…

    1.  YES! THANK YOU! CLEARLY the answer to overpriced 3d movies that we don’t want is to spend even MORE money on stuff that makes it look like it should have to begin with! And I’m sure these will fit over my normal glasses just as “well” as the standard 3d glasses do! Capitalism at its finest!


  17. ‘patrons will have a single price for both 2D and 3D films. 2D prices will increase and 3D prices will decrease.’

    I find this highly unlikely.  I think the 2D price will simply raise to the price of 3D levels.  Perhaps not in major cities where there could be more competition, but where I live you really only two 3 cinema choices and two of those are owned by the same company.  In places with only one chain I don’t see why they wouldn’t do this.

  18. Rule # 1 of capitalism: profit (over people).  Or screw over as many people as often as possible.

    Rule #2 of capitalism: spread the cost(over people). Or screw over as many people as often as possible.

    Rule #3 of capitalism: never feel bad about following rules 1 and 2. Or it’s not just okay to screw over people, it’s the capitalist way and you should enjoy the greed.

     Rule #4 of capitalism: If you make a bad choice (something that is not profitable) you are required to either raise the prices(preferably on everybody since you have an excuse), lower cost(scrap services, quality, or any other human oriented qualities), and lastly blame others for the mistake (either the customer, your vendors, the distributor, thieves, etc. but never take responsibility for the mistake.

    Rule #5 of capitalism: As long as you followed the other four rules, feel free to make your own and do whatever the hell you want. Or keep sticking it to the little guy for all he’s worth.

    Rule #6 of capitalism(optional): Laugh maniacally at every opportunity.

  19. …and cheers resound on film piracy websites across the globe.

    I haven’t been to a theater in years.  YEARS.  And I’ve managed just fine.  When everyone else has the same realization, there’s going to be a major change.  

    I expect theaters to go the same way as video stores.  

    1. Nope. Absolutely no intention to do so either.

      … sorry, were you trying to make a point?

  20. everyone, do yourselves a favor and invest in a nice home theater and a couple big hard drives.  in the long run it’ll be cheaper and more enjoyable

  21. 3D isn’t going anywhere soon. It’s another layer of copy protection and anti-piracy tech. No one will be able to steady cam a good copy of anything in the theatre soon, as it will all be 3D, and unless you’ve invested in a 3D tv and have the same format as a torrent, you won’t be able to download the 3d DVD or BluRay either.

    Studios aren’t pushing 3D because it adds value for the movie go-er, they are pushing it for their own self interests.

    1. However, since essentially zero people have 3D display apparatus at home, they won’t want a 3D cam of the movie. 

      At least with the “RealD 3D” tech, the extra effort involved in camming a 3D film in 2D will basically amount to slapping a polarizing filter on the camera(so that you only get one ‘eye view’ rather than the blurry-double effect that you get without the glasses) and dealing with the reduction in brightness(not trivial, but silicon sensor sensitivity isn’t getting any worse, and movie theatres are inflicting the same dimness on patrons in 3D theatres without the correct projection apparatus).

      There are other obstacles to getting a good cam; but 3D is unlikely to be a major one.

  22. I hate, hate, HATE 3D films. Until they perfect that technology, it’s something I avoid. I wear glasses (I can see the movie without them) and so I end up wearing two pairs of glasses, getting a headache even if I wear contacts, and annoyed with the not-so-stellar use of the technology. 3D is a gimmick like smell-o-vision, and I hope it goes down like that did.

    I like going to the theatre to see films, because I like stepping entirely out of my life for a couple hours with a bunch of strangers. It’s really fun to have that sense of community at certain films. But I can’t afford to pay what I might pay, going to something as spectacular as say, a Scissor Sisters show, to go see a movie once every few months.

    1. Hey hey hey…. lets go easy on smell-o-vision. To compare it to 3D is an insult. Really, I am serious, if you ever get a chance to see a film with smell-o-vision, go for it, it makes movies really fun, unlike 3D.

      1. Odorama I think it’s called.
        And no thanks, the only film in Odorama that I know of is John Waters’ “Polyester”, and hmm… it’s a John Waters film, so expect the super-nasty.

  23. I already can’t just go to a movie, because there is no guanrantee the movies I want to see will be in 2D, so, yes, charge more for my precious 2D movies, because people want to see headache inducing, overly technically complex movies.

    That’s so going to get me out to theatres more.

    While we’re at it, let’s bring back the (somejob) Makes Movies campaign they had a few years ago, where they accuse you of pirating while you’re in the theatre, or “for the customer’s convience” add $10 to the ticket and make it come with popcorn.

  24. Cory, I think you have this all wrong. Sure it sucks that 2D movie prices will go up, but I think this change will actually mean fewer 3D movies rather than more.

    Currently, the big incentive for making 3D movies is the premium ticket price. When the premium goes away, so does the incentive.

    Also, viewing this as a subsidy it a bit silly. It’s not like ticket prices are set to recover production costs. Ticket prices are set to what the market will bear. Evidently, the market won’t bear the current ticket price for 3D. Apparently, the distributors think the market *will* bear a higher price for 2D. Personally, I think they’re screwing themselves.

    Now pardon me while I add more movies to my Netflix queue.

    1. Ticket prices are set to what the market will bear. Evidently, the market won’t bear the current ticket price for 3D.

      Pish. The lower the attendance, the higher the prices will rise.

      When the economy tanked, credit card companies didn’t lower their rates and undertake better business practices; they quadrupled their rates and told the people who were still paying to pay for all the ones who defaulted. Economic principles are a weaker driving force than the entitlement mindset of the entertainment industry. It’s certainly not going to be the first industry that runs itself out of business through shortsightedness and greed.

    2. I think you meant to say the big incentive for CONVERTING movies to 3D is the premium ticket prices.  Meaning movies that were not shot with 3D in mind (yes, it makes a huge difference) changed over because the studios (they’re the ones doing the conversions, not the theatres) want to grab some more money. And conversions are generally bad because the movies themselves are not framed or edited for 3D.  

  25. It’s as if companies in the entertainment industry all have a special department dedicated to figuring new ways to make their customers hate them. 

    1. Nah, the entire industry is dedicated to that; no need for specialised operatives. They might even get away with it if there were occasionally movies worth seeing

  26. I can’t remember the last time I saw a film in a theater.  They keep thinking of ways to keep me from going; being stuck in a room full of noisy people, someone blocking my view, over priced tickets, no staff to fix the projector, and their rehashing the same old scripts over and over.

  27. I’m blind in one eye, so the 3D doesn’t even work for me.  One more reason to stay at home for viewing.

  28. I’m a teacher of high school Language Arts. I have so many students who I’ve encouraged into reading with “The Hunger Games.” When my students asked me yesterday if I was going to the movies to see the new film, I told them no. I’m not about to be gouged $12 bucks a person when I can wait 3-4 months and buy it for that same price practically.

    Hollywood, you’re doing it wrong.

    1. Exactly. If My wife and I want to see a movie– even at Matinee prices– it’s the same as buying it sight unseen on DVD. Luckily I live in an area with several fine second run theaters, so i can wait a few weeks and see those must-see cultural touchstone films for $3 a ticket and enjoy beer and pizza while I do it.

  29. This could be a study about how people might prefer to see the 2-D version of the film for reasons other than cost… except for the ensuing boycott.

    I’d rather wait for a comfy chair than pay money to see a film that hasn’t been custom-adjusted to my hearing sensitivity.  I get headaches from normal movie screens, though not as bad as 3D

  30. There’s no way in hell the entertainment industry will ever convince me it costs three bucks more per ticket for 3D.

    Drop the price of the 3D tickets to the same as 2D and charge five bucks for the re-usable glasses. You’ll do fine.

    Oh, and I’ll buy your overpriced popcorn if you’ll replace the yellow grease with real butter.

  31. This gives me teh sadness. I like going to movies in theatres. Well, the good ones. Not so keen on the factory-farming multiplexes. 

    I like the whole experience. The picking which film to go to at which theatre by balancing multiple film preference with theatre preference, the anticipation of going there, arriving at the venue, qureing for tickets and icecream, crowd watching in the cafe while waiting to go in, sitting in the auditorium wating for the lights to go down and the chatter to die away, watching the film in it’s majestic bigness, then leaving with a crowd and going to another cafe for icecream and/or coffee and talking about the film.

    Sure, idiots can spoil the experience at pretty much everyone of those steps, but generally at smaller and arthouse theatres the idiots /tend/ to be in vanishingly small numbers. And when it all comes together it’s just so much memorable fun.

    But I’m not so keen on being shafted, just because. That tends to lay a sour taste over the whole night, so that regardless of how good everything else is, it’s poisoned by the knowledge of being shafted.

    That said, I took the kids to Tintin in 3D a while ago (in an arthouse-ish cinema – ) and was pleasantly surprised. The 3D wasn’t too overblown, and after a while it sort of faded into the background. But, I guess, if it’s just going to fade into the background, why bother in the first place?

  32. 3D is Hollywood’s problem, not it’s customers. This is typical behavior from a monopolist that will find all goodwill gone when times get tough, and they will.

  33. “…as an industry, I think we’ll see a blend begin to emerge in 2012, where patrons will have a single price for both 2D and 3D films.”

    Is he announcing or predicting? Looks like the latter to me.

  34. I just checked and Hoyts over here in Melbourne is charging $21 Australian for a ticket to see Hunger games. $21!!! To put this in perspective I thing the Aust. dollar is slightly stronger than the us dollar at the moment.
    According to this article the price will go even higher…  Really???  I think I can survive without going to the movies.

    1. At $21, is the hunger game being played the one that takes food out of the viewer’s budget?

  35. So bright ideas gone wrong…
    1 – 3d We’ll make it all 3D even if we have to spend an extra $100 milli0n to make it look 3D, because its cool… what do you mean people are puking watching this?

    2 – ZOMG they might make perfect digital copies from the projectors, quick make a system that can shut down the system if you don’t input the right 28 digit code!… Why does this movie look so dark mommy?  Because they are to scared to switch the bulb back to the 2D one, if they mess up the loose money for the day by having to shut down the theater.

    3 – Lets film it in IMax 3D!  But there aren’t enough real IMax screens, we’ll just add new definitions of what IMax is!

    4 – People aren’t paying top dollar for our 3D movies, maybe if we make what they want to watch cost more we can recoup the price.

    5 – Why won’t people come in to the theater anymore?  We send out minimum wage earning high school kids in with a whole 3 minutes to flip the theater and make it nice, we don’t hassle people with screaming babies and cell phones, we only had to use the jaws of life 3 times this week to pry a kid off of the floor, we’ve set the volume to just above sonic boom for the fight scenes and turn it down during the stupid talking parts, the restrooms are just as nice as outhouses, and we are charging triple on our snacks?  WHAT DO THESE INGRATES WANT?!

    The “experience” of going out to the movies has lost its luster.  More people have better screens at home and would rather avoid all of the “features” offered by most theaters.  The ones that are doing well?  The specialists.  Drinks to your seat, high end food with big comfy chairs, special nights for parents to bring screamers, no cell phone policies that actually throw people out.  The idea of treating them like coach passengers is what is hurting your industry, how soon until one of the RyanAir’s it and offers clean bathrooms for a fee?

  36. Certainly unfair, wrong-headed thinking typical of greedy captains of industry.  They will lose my business, as I avoid the  theaters in  favor of streaming content.  Then  when  they screw that up, I’ll go elsewhere or avoid movies entirely.  And in the end, they will have done this to themselves and learned nothing in the process.  
    Nothing like a good book anyway.

  37. The movie industry is feeding on itself with all the remakes, rip-offs and money grabs. Unfortunately the spambots and the mouth-breathing a$$holes have yet to figure that out.

  38. “What’s your name?”
    “Bend over”
    “Ben? Nice to meet you”

    I wonder what their next excuse is going to be when their ticket sales go down further?

  39. Watch out theaters with this move – you may end up like past media ; newspapers , books and cd’s – OBSOLETE !
     There will come a day when people will come to realize what actual advantage do we get for your $9.99 ticket and your $7.00 soda pop and $5.00 popcorn-  when we could have waited 4-6 weeks and bought it on DVD  at target for 16.00—- or for the more adventurous of us a  bit torrent download  nuff said. I used to love to go to the movies as a kid and young adult – cant watch the 3d stuff – it makes me nauseous and causes severe headaches after 20 minutes. but this plan is BS 3d will not save the industry -if they do his I am going back to reading the books – always better picture quality in my head anyway :)

  40. I think we should do away with theaters all together.  They are either too hot, too cold, too crowded or the person in front of you needs a bath.   We as the public have a choice.  We should boycott theaters and demand that movies be instant streamed to our homes.  If we want it in 3D we can do so, if not we have a choice and we don’t have to put up with uncomfortable chairs and dirty floors.   

  41. Juxtaposed with the rise in the number of second run $5 and under theaters, I’d say that Hollywood has once again shown themselves to have their finger on the pulse of the nation.

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