Clovis News

Regal theaters tinker with movie prices in Fresno

Like it or not, you're buying popcorn and soda when you go to see a movie at UA Broadway Faire 10.

Regal Entertainment Group, owners of the local theater, has selected Fresno for an experiment with new ticket prices.

The plan -- called Pop Up Savings -- means that, along with the regular admission cost, a $4 charge will be added to every ticket to cover the cost of a refillable drink and popcorn at the theater at 3351 W. Shaw Ave. It starts May 27.

The charge increases ticket prices for regular evening screenings to $14.50, or $11 for children and seniors. The ticket cost for 3D movies will be $17.50, or $14.

"This is dramatically different than anything we have done before. But Fresno has always been a great movie market. This will give us a model that we could use if we roll the program out to other theaters," says Charles Shaw, district manager of Regal Entertainment Group.

Knoxville-based Regal has 535 theatres in 37 states, including Fresno's Broadway Faire, Manchester Stadium 16, Edwards Fresno Stadium 22 and Clovis Movies 8. Only Broadway Faire has the new ticket plan. The other theaters will continue with traditional tickets and concession stand sales. Tickets at Edwards are $11 and $7.50, while Manchester charges $10.50 and $7. Tickets are $3 in Clovis, which shows older movies.

Shaw says the ticket plan at Broadway Faire is aimed at those who can't sit through a movie without something to eat or drink. Hold on to your movie seat. For them, the price of popcorn and a soda will drop by a minimum of $6. They can also get unlimited refills during the show time listed on the ticket, a service not currently available with regular concession prices.

Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com, a movie industry analysis website, calls the plan "an interesting experiment" by Regal.

"I think we are going to see more experimenting like this," he says. "This is real case in point of how exhibitors are evolving and trying new things so they can meet the customers halfway."

Fresno's the perfect spot for the experiment because of a local passion for movies. Edwards is one of the highest-grossing movie complexes in the country.

Theater companies are experimenting with pricing plans because there has been a drop in sales this year after what was considered an exceptional 2010 with the popularity of the films "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland."

At Broadway Faire, the new plan means all the soda and popcorn someone can consume in about a two-hour window.

Shaw says between 30%-40% of Regal patrons buy snacks. The company hopes those who don't buy snacks will go to one of the other theater complexes.

"We understand the economy is tough. But we have had success with things like the $3 ticket prices at the Clovis theaters and Manchester's lower twilight show prices," says Shaw. "We think the value-minded moviegoers will like this new service."

It's not clear how the change will affect employees. Because every patron will get popcorn and soda, and many will return for refills, more employees may be needed to work concessions and clean theaters. There's no way of knowing until the new pricing starts.

Forget about hot dogs and nachos; they'll be dropped to streamline the process. Treats such as Goobers or Junior Mints will be sold from vending machines.

The experiment's scheduled to run through Sept. 8. Regal will decide then whether to ditch or expand the plan.

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