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Movie Ticket Prices Hit All-Time High in 2011

Happy Feet Two
Warner Bros.
"Happy Feet Two" made a soft entry in the fourth quarter

The average movie ticket in the U.S. cost $7.93 last year, topping the previous high of $7.89 in 2010.

Going to the movies has never been more expensive.

Ticket prices in the U.S. hit an all-time high in 2011, according to numbers released Thursday to The Hollywood Reporter by the National Association of Theatre Owners. The price of admission rose last year to $7.93 from $7.89 in 2010.

The high comes despite the average price for a ticket dropping slightly, to $7.83, in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to NATO. The lower fourth-quarter average is believed to reflect a slower pace of business, especially for 3D movies, which carry a higher price.

The average cost for a movie ticket in the U.S. has risen every year since 1992, according to NATO statistics, when it was $4.15. It has been above the $7 mark since 2008.

The steady rise in the price of movie tickets — often greater than inflation — corresponds with big changes in the movie business. For Hollywood studios, the switch to mostly blockbuster tentpole movies has raised production costs and pushed up marketing expenses, which often reach as high as $70 million worldwide to publicize and distribute the biggest movies.
 
For exhibitors, the cost of building new multiplex theaters and, more recently, switching to digital projection and sound, has been a factor in the rising costs.

The recent proliferation of 3D movies also has led to higher ticket prices. Most theaters include a surcharge of about $3 per ticket to see a film in 3D. In 2011, there were more 3D releases than ever but the average take for a 3D movie was down from the previous year.

Email: Alex.Benblock@thr.com