Coming to a Theater Near You: Pricier Popcorn

Clearview Cinemas, a New York area movie chain, recently said it would stop offering reduced-price tickets for children and seniors at one of its Manhattan cinemas. The next day the company did an about-face and restored its discounted tickets.

Gil said that some older theaters with less amenities will probably be forced out of business while others are going to need to upgrade their seats and sound and projection equipment. Others are also experimenting with special, more-expensive sections of the theater that also offer dinner, alcohol or both.

Corcoran, the theater owners' association spokesman, said that theaters are feeling some pressure on popcorn prices because of the rise in corn demand for ethanol.

"Whether theaters transfer that to the consumer in terms of popcorn prices is going to be a market-based decision that each theater is going to have make on its own," Corcoran said. "I think Dr. Gil is making assumptions that theaters will definitely raise their prices on popcorn. They may, they may not. I don't know."

Corcoran takes issue with Gil's assumption that if higher popcorn prices lead to a decrease in snack sales that theaters will automatically be forced to raise prices.

"It's within the realm of possibility," Corcoran said, "but I don't think it's as guaranteed as he seems to think it is."

Regardless, Corcoran points out that a night at the movies is still more affordable than going to a Major League Baseball game — or any professional sporting event — or a concert or live theater.

"It's traditionally been that movie theaters have been the most affordable form of out-of home entrainment," Corcoran said. "They want to be the first choice of entrainment for a mass audience and that means keeping it affordable."

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