Texting #millennials won’t save movie theaters

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

News article image

Want to make the internet angry? Try something on our checklist:Write a poem about Chinese food☐ Be a woman☐ Consider letting millennials use their cellphones at the moviesAMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron told Variety that his movie theater chain, currently the second largest chain in the country, would consider relaxing rules around cell phones, specifically in order to appeal to millennials. "When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin a movie," he said, "they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s now how they live their life." And of course, the internet went crazy — just read the comments on this article where the author suggests that Aron might actually have a great idea.

First of all, it’s cute that Aron thinks that anyone listens to those warnings. AMC is nowhere as strict as Alamo Drafthouse, for example, a super-small theater chain that will kick you out if you text or talk during a movie. Second, it’s concerning that that’s what Aron thinks is keeping millennials away from movie theaters.So let’s get one thing straight: the reason young people (and all people, actually) are staying away from movie theaters is that it’s really freakin’ expensive. If the internet is going to get angry about anything, it should be about this!I just checked my local AMC theater to see how much a ticket to see the new Jungle Book movie is. The cheapest adult ticket — no IMAX, no 3D — at an AMC theater in New York City is $15.09. That’s five dollars and ten cents more than a monthly Netflix subscription, which has around 13,000 movies available to stream at literally any moment.But if you’re going to go to a movie theater, you might as well spring for an IMAX or 3D ticket, since that’s an experience you’re unlikely to be able to experience at home. An adult ticket for The Jungle Book in IMAX 3D at AMC in NYC (wow that’s a lot of acronyms) costs $21.09. A child ticket nets you a $3 discount at $18.09 per ticket. Let’s say two parents want to take their two perfect kids out the movies. It’s going to cost them $78.36 just for the tickets. And God help them if the rugrats want popcorn.

Tickets are expensive outside of the big cities, too: a movie ticket in my hometown in Vermont costs $8.75 (add $1.50 for 3D features). Add in the cheaper kids tickets and you’re looking at $37 total to see The Jungle Book in 3D, sans IMAX. Sure, it’s about half the price of a night out in New York, but it’s still really expensive, and a lot of families don’t have $40 to throw around every time there’s a somewhat interesting movie in theaters.That’s another problem: while audiences have shown that they’ll show up in droves for proven properties like Star Wars or pretty much any Marvel movie, they’re less like to pay $15 to $20 per ticket for something that might be just okay. Take the latest Melissa McCarthy movie, The Boss, for example. I’d love to go see The Boss! I like Melissa McCarthy! But I’ve read some middling reviews, and I’d rather not spend $15 when I could just re-watch Gilmore Girls or rent Bridesmaids for $4 on iTunes.I’d love to see Adam Aron put his money where his mouth is. If he really wants to get millennials back in movie theaters "with the same degree of intensity as baby boomers," he should lower prices across the board. Changing the environment of the theater can help — creating "family only" screenings, for example, and marking some showings as safe for texting teens — but that doesn’t change the environment at the box office.