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These days, it takes a lot of green to paint the town red

Movie ticket prices go up today for the second time in two years.

By Ron Scherer Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / March 2, 2001


Thinking of taking the family to the big screen tonight to see a dog pretend to be a federal agent? Get ready to shell out $40 bucks - more if everyone wants their own soda and popcorn. That's right, movie prices in New York officially hit the double digit mark today - the second price hike in two years.

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If this story seems like a Hollywood sequel (haven't I read this before?), you're right. Ten years ago, the price of a movie made news when it hit $5, and two years ago New Yorkers were indignant to pay $9.50 a flick - the priciest ticket in the US.

These days, the economics of entertainment is kind of like what appears on the screen - real life doesn't seem to apply. Movies may be leading the "Invasion of the Pocketbook," but (perhaps with the exceptions of bowling and miniature golf) it's hard to find a night out on the town these days for less.

From ball parks to Broadway, tickets are getting more expensive - often rising faster than inflation.

Take movies. Last year, according to a survey by En- tertainment Marketing Letter, the cost of a night out for a family of four rose 5.8 percent (after rising 12.5 percent the year before). The inflation rate last year was only 3.7 percent. So far this year, there are plenty of signs that consumers' wallets will feel the squeeze once more.

Many sports teams are starting the year by hiking prices for season tickets. For example, the World Champion Yankees have raised the price of their most expensive seats by $10 to $65 a seat.

* The Texas Rangers, fresh from paying Alex Rodriguez $250 million, increased average prices by about 10 percent, the fifth year in a row the team has raised prices. The top seats jumped even higher - from $35 to $60.

* Live entertainment, on and off Broadway, is getting more pricey. The top price for a musical ("Stephen Sondheim's Follies"), which previews next week, is $90 per ticket. Other musicals have been charging $85. Some off-Broadway shows are now asking as much as $65 per seat.

* Rock 'n' roll is here for pay. Two years ago, live concert prices hit a high note, rising by 58 percent, according to Entertainment Marketing. Last year, the increase slowed to 1.7 percent. Although it's still too early to tell how this year's prices will fare, there is an early indicator. The Irish group U2 is planning a summer tour, and even in Albany, N.Y., the best seats are going for $130 a pop.

So far, the public is continuing to pay. However, it's not clear how much longer that will continue.

"Have we reached a breaking point?" asks Michael Schaur, executive editor of Entertainment Marketing.

That's certainly true for Bronx resident Yvonne Mangerino. The legal secretary used to take her two children to the movies on the first Friday of every month, since they got out of school early. But now it's gotten too expensive, she says, recalling that the last time she took the children it cost her $40.

"I know it was a big deal for them, but I can't do that anymore," she says.