Curtain closes on $1 movies


POSTED: Sunday, May 17, 2009

Oahu's only discount movie theater is now charging more than a dollar for tickets.

Since the end of April, admission prices have gone up to $1.25 all day Monday through Thursday and before 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

After 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the admission price, which applies to anyone 3 years old and up, is $1.50.




Hollywood Theaters

        Discount theaters

» Honolulu Restaurant Row 500 Ala Moana Tickets: $1.25 to $1.50


» Hilo Kress Cinemas 174 Kamehameha Ave. Tickets: $1 before 6 p.m., $1.25 after 6 p.m.


Regular theaters


Tickets $9.50 adult, $7.50 matinees, $7 children and seniors. Tuesday nights are bargain nights ($7.50, with some restrictions).


Big Island » Prince Kuhio Theatres


Maui » Maui Mall Megaplex Cinema


» Front Street Theatre


» Wharf Cinema Center


Scott Wallace, president of Hollywood Theaters, which operates the nine-screen discount theater at Restaurant Row, said it's all part of a “;loose change strategy”; to get customers to spend more on concessions.

“;There really isn't much of a difference between $1 and $1.25,”; Wallace said. “;If we wanted to raise the price, we'd go to $3. It's nice to give customers some change so when they go to the concession counter, they can buy some food items.”;

Wallace said psychologically, a customer with loose change—or three quarters in their pockets—is more likely to spend it when they walk in the doors.

“;Let's be blunt,”; he said. “;Our profits are going to be on the food. We're not making money on the ticket.”;

Top-selling concessions include popcorn, mochi crunch and soda, although the theater also sells nachos, cinnamon pretzels, hot dogs and candy and offers arcade games. Wallace says popcorn and mochi crunch complement one another well in Hawaii, as customers like to buy both and mix them together.

Wallace said the discount theater is profitable and doing well, partly due to the competitive rates he's able to pay for the lease at Restaurant Row.

Moviegoer Kaahu Alo said another quarter wasn't a big deal compared with a regular movie ticket price, and would not keep him from going to the Restaurant Row theater from time to time.

“;The parking's free, and you don't have to worry about anything other than an extra quarter,”; he said.

The theater validates parking for 3 1/2 hours for customers who purchase a movie ticket.

Retail market analyst Stephany Sofos said movie theaters, both discount and regular, tend to do well during tough economic times because people are looking for an escape but might not be splurging on more expensive trips.

Hollywood.com Box Office, which provides the latest box office news, data and analysis, reports that box office gross is up 16.4 percent, and attendance is up 13.7 percent in 2009 over last year.

Likewise, while online movie-rental service company Netflix fell short of some investors' expectations, it posted substantial first-quarter growth and added more net subscribers than in any previous quarter in the company's 10-year history.

“;First-quarter results showed strong momentum driven by consumer attraction to our unlimited rental proposition,”; said Reed Hastings, Netflix co-founder and chief executive.

Netflix ended last quarter with approximately 10.3 million subscribers, which represented a 25 percent year-over-year increase, the company said. The company's first-quarter revenue also grew to $394.1 million, a 21 percent rise from the year-ago quarter, the company said.

“;People aren't feeling as wealthy as they used to,”; said Sofos. “;So anywhere you can have entertainment for a reasonable price, you're going to do it.”;

She also said people pay more attention to pricing during tough times than during boom times, and that could give discount theaters an edge.

“;In these economic times, anyone who's willing to give a discount is going to do really well,”; she said. “;A movie is the cheapest entertainment around. In the summer I'm sure it's going to be gangbusters.”;

The typical movie ticket price for regular admission at larger theater complexes in Hawaii now runs $10. Hollywood.com Box Office reported that the nationwide average ticket price rose from $7.18 during the first five months of 2008 to $7.35 during the same period this year.

At Consolidated Theatres' Ward Stadium 16, tickets are $10 for general admission; $8.25 for matinees, students and military; $7.25 for children; and $7 for seniors.

But ticket prices at Consolidated Theatres vary by location throughout the island.

At Kahala Theatre, general admission is $9.75, while at Kapolei 16 it is $9.50 and at Koolau Stadium 10 it's $8.75.

Consolidated offers ScreenSavers discount packs, but customers must purchase at least 100 at $600 (tickets are $6 each).

At Regal Dole Cannery Stadium, tickets are $10 for general admission, $8.25 for matinees and $7 for children.

Besides the Restaurant Row theater, Hollywood runs one other discount theater: Kress Cinemas in Hilo. Hollywood also operates three theaters on Maui (one at Maui Mall and two in Lahaina) and one at the Prince Kuhio Plaza on the Big Island.

In April of last year, Hollywood Theaters closed Laie Cinemas, a two-screen theater at Laie Shopping Center, after 25 years in operation. Tickets for first-run movies there were $5 for adults and $3 for children.

The closure of Laie Cinemas followed on the heels of several other small discount-movie theater closures, including three in Kailua over the last five years. Wallace cited economics at the time as the reason for its theater closures, saying that audiences today demand a multiplex theater with at least 14 screens.

Wallace says the Restaurant Row theater, which opened in 1993, has a lease good for another 40 years from that date and is there to stay.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin writer Allison Schaefers contributed to this report.