"... photo development was cheap and common enough to fully automate at a kiosk in the mall."
And why, pray tell, would someone who cared about photographic quality process film and make prints at a kiosk in the mall? Crappy processing and crappy prints, and with automated printing and color correction you have no idea as to what the hell went wrong (or right) with your images.
Shoot pro-grade E100, or Velvia, and you paid $10-12 per roll of film plus $10/roll commercial processing, or at least $20/roll combined. Shoot a dozen rolls at an event, and you just blew through $250 in 1980's dollars.
So yeah, I'd call it "pricey".