CinemaCon: Theater Owners to Test Discount Day in Undisclosed State

1:42 PM PST 03/25/2014 by Pamela McClintock
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UPDATED: The move comes as admissions continue to decline in the U.S., particularly among teenagers and adults under the age of 50.

LAS VEGAS -- The National Association of Theater Owners is working with its members to test whether discounted ticket prices one day a week in all theaters would boost overall attendance.

NATO president/chairman John Fithian revealed the plan to reporters following his State of the Industry speech Tuesday at CinemaCon, the annual gathering of exhibitors in Las Vegas.

STORY: CinemaCon: Global Box Office Hits Record $35.9 Billion in 2013 Thanks to China

"We have a state in mind, but we don't want it to be disclosed. The model isn't fully developed. There will be meetings this week, in fact," Fithian said during a joint press conference with MPAA chairman/CEO Chris Dodd.

The move comes as admissions continue to decline, or remain flat, in North America -- even as overall box-office revenue rises -- thanks to the increased cost of going to a movie. According to NATO, the average ticket price hit $8.13 in 2013, a 2 percent jump.

And, according to the MPAA's 2013 theatrical statistics report, many people are going to the movies less frequently than they used to, including teenagers and young adults, a coveted demo for Hollywood tentpoles. Frequent moviegoers between the ages of 12 and 17 fell from 6.3 million in 2012 to 5.5 million, while those between the ages of 18 and 24 fell from 8.7 million to 7.2 million.

But there were even steeper declines among adults. Frequent moviegoers between the ages of 25 and 39 decreased from 9.9 million to 8.2 million, and from 5.8 million to 3.2 million among those between the ages of 40 and 49.

Conversely, thanks to family films including Despicable Me 2 and Frozen, tickets sold to 2-11 year olds reached a five-year high. And ticket sales among adults over the age of 50 clocked in at an all-time high.

Fithian said the discount day will likely be tested in an undisclosed state sometime this year, but that for it to work best, all theater owners in that state would have to cooperate.

Fithian said the Hollywood studios will have to be consulted, since they share box-office revenue with exhibitors.

"This is something that has worked for years in Latin America and Canada," Fithian said. "Our capacity is so underused on some days, such a Tuesday, so why not bring more people into the cinema? We are looking aggressively at it."

"The concept is a day in which you tell the consumer you get cheaper access if you come on a certain day," he continued.

Fithian and Dodd had plenty of good news to trumpet during their joint appearance on Tuesday. Domestic box-office revenue hit a record $10.9 billion in 2013, a 1 percent increase over 2012, while international box-office revenue clocked in at $25 billion, also a record. That put the global total at $35.9 billion.

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