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Paying for the Seat, Not the Movie
By Patrick Riley  Fox Market Wire
NEW YORK — People complain about the price of movie tickets. But few people complain about the movie-going experience.

Stadium seating, digitial surround sound, more comfortable seats — these are just some of the amenities of the multiplex circa 1999.

Should these costs be passed along to consumers in the form of higher ticket prices?

"We are building better theaters," Loews Cineplex senior marketing vice president Marc Pascucci said. "And they cost more to build — almost twice as much. We feel that a higher (ticket) price is warranted."

Andrew Jarecki, CEO of MovieFone Inc., says consumers in New York, who now pay the highest ticket price in the country, would be hard-pressed to find a better value than that offered today by motion pictures.

"With the improvements companies are making to the movie-going experience in New York, it's worth it," he said. "Concession stand lines are monitored, theaters are cleaned regularly, carpets aren't soaked with soda, bathrooms are clean and projection quality is significantly better. People are watching a screen in perfect condition — and it's replaced if it's not. The sound system is tremendously enhanced. New York theaters don't survive now if they don't have great sound.

"Pound for pound, it's still a good value."

Theater owners say that consumers will only demand better-quality theaters in the future and that present-day theatergoers will have to help shoulder the burden of those costs.

"The trends are telling us that from 2000 to 2010 we're going to have a spike in the youth population, a teen boomlet," said Pascucci. "For us there's a whole new customer base coming up that will want to go out of the home for entertainment. And we have to be prepared for that."

He disputes charges that the industry is overbuilding. "We're not really overbuilding, we're replacing. Every time we open one of these newer theaters we probably close two or three smaller ones, older ones."

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