If they would lower prices of everything, tickets and refreshments/food, they'd see way more people, and way more money, come their way.
Worked at a theater for several years. A few interesting tidbits for the chain I worked for:
- Movie theaters are in the business of selling popcorn and concessions, not in the business of showing movies. You could substitute the movies with another popular activity in a public space and the same business model would exist.
- Movie theaters largely do not set prices of tickets ... the studios do that. Local market conditions do factor into the ticket price though ... one of the local towns near where I live only charges $5 for a matinee vs. $7.50+ everywhere else ... otherwise the local town theater WOULD go out of business.
- You pay for the container the food or drink is put in, not the contents of the container. Accounting is also done the same way. Management freaked out when 1000 nacho trays were lost at one point ... $0.05 to produce, $5000+ in inventory.
- Staff is not cheap. Weekdays Monday-Thursday usually operate as a loss ... the revenue is not enough to keep 3 minimum wage people (box office, usher, concessions) + 2 managers (1 customer service/other, 1 projectionist) around. On Friday-Sunday, look to a 1 employee to 250 patron ratio.
- Marketing and customer data is poorly collected and analyzed. This is probably the biggest issue with movie theaters, they do not know their customers or market well enough to make global decisions yet allow for local adjustments. Example for concessions: Mountain Dew and Hotdogs _ALWAYS_ sell more at the midnight showings then popcorn does and the hotdogs need to be thrown out at the end of the day if not consumed. Not every theater does a midnight showing. For those that do, why not discount the hotdogs at the midnight showings to sell them instead of throwing them out? This is an extremely simple example and proper analytics would reveal much more interesting customer trends.
I do agree with your point on the concession prices. During the summer twice a week they would show a kids movie from the past 1-5 years at 10am each morning. Tickets were $1 each, and kiddie popcorn trays prices were halved. The combination dropped the total price per child to about $5. Having 500+ kiddies running around at 10am in the morning was a bit of a headache, but made more money during the weekdays from those two showings than the rest of the weekdays combined. Another example, refillable plastic cups that were $10 initial purchase, $1 to refill ... had people looking in the trash for these things, taking them home + washing, then bringing back all summer. Lowering the prices all of the time does NOT make sense, but mixing up discounts, special offerings, a real rewards program, etc. all combined have a huge return on business ... and none of this is rocket science.
Biggest issue is movie theaters still operate largely in a static mode with their business model. The price is one such element of static thinking as parent pointed out. A subscription based model like this I applaud as it does give an example of dynamic thinking that will encourage customer loyalty. Otherwise, competition such as Redbox and Netflix that is more dynamic in their business model will eat away at profits. I only hope we don't see the opposite of the supply/demand curve, that is, movie theaters go bankrupt and available supply of theaters become so low that prices naturally DO go up.