So, I was looking forward to seeing the new Mummy movie starring Tom Cruise–and then the first wave of reviews hit (currently 20% on Rotten Tomatoes). Now, regular blog readers know that I have a rule–call it the World War Z Rule–that I will ignore critical reviews on movies that I want to see unless they are almost uniformly negative (& even then, I’ve been known to see the movie anyway, a la Warcraft). This is what I’d been planning to do with The Mummy as I’m a fan of monster movies, in general and the Brendan Frasier version of The Mummy was one of my favorite recent incarnation/reboot. This film, while not a critical darling, has all the earmarks of a fun, summer popcorn action flick, in the vein of WWZ. However, as it stands now, I’m probably not going to see it.
Well, earlier this year, AMC bought out the local Carmike theater that I like to attend (it is only one of two theaters in town with IMAX). Now, normally I don’t begrudge companies buying out each other, but in this case, the buyout meant several changes that happened almost immediately. AMC did not make any substantial changes to the theater that I could see (no new seats, projection system, etc). Everything pretty much stayed the same except for AMC branding. However, AMC seemed to raise ticket prices–the charge for Wonder Woman was more than I usually paid, but more galling was the removal of option for buying a Small popcorn/Small soft drink at the concession stand. Yes, I know that the concession stand is where theaters make their money, but a regular or large popcorn bag is just a waste of food (and money)–I can’t eat all that popcorn and will end up throwing most of it out and I small coke is all I really need. I don’t like being “forced” to buy things that I don’t need. All told, the movie-going experience for Wonder Woman cost me close to $30 and that was for one ticket on a Saturday matinee.
Now I understand that theaters are trying to maximize their profit margins to get a return on their investment, but the high cost of seeing a movie just means that people will become even more selective in their movie-going experience. Marginal movies, like The Mummy, that don’t get favorable reviews will find a much harder time achieving the coveted blockbuster status. It will take a sure/proven hit to get me out to the IMAX screen now, whereas under Carmike’s pricing strategy, I probably would have gone to The Mummy, this weekend no matter the reviews. That is why Marvel and Disney movies are seeing such a visceral reaction from the audiences: while Marvel & Disney movies don’t always “hit,” they do so with enough of a success ratio that families and movie-goers feel that they “trust” that they can get a good, quality story experience for the price that they’re asked to pay at the admissions window (and the concession stand.) As for me, my next major summer blockbuster comes in about a month, and surprise, it’s a Marvel movie: Spider-Man Homecoming.