Boy, This Seems To Be The Month For Ticket Pricing Conversations

You may have seen that the AMC movie chain decided to implement tiered pricing for their theaters with higher prices for preferred seating and lower pricing for less desirable front row seating and wheelchair spaces.

“The mega-exhibitor, which has already introduced sightline seating in select markets, is betting movie-goers will pay more for a better view of their favorite Hollywood titles, as do patrons of music and sporting events.”

They are testing this pricing out in select markets so I popped over to the site Lincoln Square 13 in NYC to see what the chart looked like. Below are the recliner and regular seating arrangements for the new Magic Mike movies. The tan seats are the premium priced seats, the blue are the discounted seats and the white are regular price.

I should note that the recliner seating chart is for the 7:45 showing and the regular seating chart is for the 9:15 showing. I looked at the 6:15 screening chart for the regular seating and there are only a handful of seats sold. It may be that time is not really convenient, but it seems like a lot of folks in NYC are willing to pay extra for recliner seating plus a premium on a Monday night. And I assume AMC realizes 7:45 is probably more convenient and makes sure the screening with the recliners is available so they can make a little extra money.

That said, another Hollywood Reporter article on the same subject noted that Paramount worked with theaters, including AMC to lower the ticket price for the movie 80 for Brady, just days before AMC unveiled this new premium seating plan.

” For years, some distribution executives have argued in favor of variable pricing, whereby tickets are lowered depending upon a movie’s target audience. In this case, Paramount presented evidence showing that older demos are more sensitive about ticket prices.

But no sooner had 80 for Brady opened over the Feb. 4-6 weekend to a pleasing $12.7 million then did AMC reveal Feb. 7 that it is implementing a hefty $1 and $2 price increase for many seats…The news quickly put the 80 for Brady initiative on the back burner since AMC’s plan goes in the opposite direction by introducing higher costs.

This has created a bit of a philosophical tension between the two approaches-varying price based on target audience vs. vary prices based on seating location. Paramount says it won’t have final numbers for another week or so, but preliminary data shows that admissions were higher for 80 For Brady than its other release, Knock at the Cabin. The latter ended up making more revenue than the former the first weekend of February, but by Monday Brady exceeded it in revenue.

There has been some criticism from some like actor Elijah Wood who says that these pricing schemes will exclude lower income families from an activity that has been relatively democratic.  Others are concerned that complicated pricing will provide an incentive to stay home and stream.

Hollywood studio executives, however, are concerned about the moviegoers who aren’t as eager to pay more, or who already have doubts about resuming their moviegoing habits. Notes one distribution source, “my biggest worry is that all of this pricing becomes too complicated.”

What Profits A Man To Gain Riches, But Lose His Ardent Fans

I was not keeping close tabs on the topics President Biden was expected to cover in the State of the Union so it was a coincidence that yesterday’s post was about exorbitant add on fees on the same day he was addressing that issue.

It is probably less of a coincidence that another article from TicketNews came across my feed today reporting what I alluded to in the last lines of yesterday’s post. A Bruce Springsteen fanzine decided to call it quits after 43 years due to Springsteen’s decision to engage in dynamic pricing and slow release of inventory practices.

But for Springsteen, who built much of his reputation on the appearance of being a man of the people rather than interested in exploiting his fans for as high a value as he can capture, the reputational damage has been significant. The Backstreets closure is merely the latest, and highest profile, chapter of it.

“There’s no denying that the new ticket price range has in and of itself been a determining factor in our outlook as the 2023 tour approached — certainly in terms of the experience that hardcore fans have been accustomed to for, as Springsteen noted, 49 years,” reads one part of Phillips’ message to readers. “Six months after the onsales, we still faced this three-part predicament: These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result.”

Part of the issue is that some of Springsteen’s public statements seem to dismiss the concerns of his fans. The fact that ticket prices have dropped from $4000 in the initial roll out to $450-$1000+ with $61 seats available for some shows, does seem to indicate demand pricing theoretically works.

However, the article suggests that the damage is done and younger artists need to be cognizant of the current environment.

What will be interesting is whether or not younger artists – many of whom don’t have decades of good will from their fans to squander – will see what dynamic ticket pricing and openly fleecing your biggest fans can do to their future interest in your work and think twice about embracing the Ticketmaster/Live Nation model of “slow ticketing” going forward.

Keep An Eye On The Ticketing Uproar

With people feeling more comfortable going to public events again, the travails consumers suffer when trying to purchase tickets are coming front and center. Last week TicketNews reported that President Biden is urging Congress to pass legislation limiting excessive fees and mandating transparency about hold back practices.

The issue of high fees that are often hidden until you are well into the purchasing process is pretty well-known and complained about. Hold backs on the other hand, are less obvious and more in the realm of a suspected, but not confirmed practice.

While companies like Ticketmaster and Live Nation regularly blame ticket resale or “bots” for the enormous spike in ticket prices consumers are paying, many believe that price inflation by hiding the true available supply through holdbacks is the biggest factor in that price surge, with the industry hoping to sell consumers and lawmakers on resale being the issue rather than their own deceptive practices.


Support for President Biden’s plan was also put forward by the National Association of Ticket Brokers, a trade group supporting ticket resale rights and consumer-friendly policy. Its statement specifically called out the “scheme called slow ticketing” used by Ticketmaster and Live Nation to hold back huge portions of tickets for most events without disclosure when tickets go on sale. Once the public is convinced that tickets are sold out, additional tickets are slowly released to the market, leading to a perceived yet artificial scarcity that convinces consumers to pay surged prices – referring to the process as a deceptive marketing practice.

Transparency and fair pricing may be a bigger issue in the attendance decision than we may realize. Among recent online reviews of my venue, comments about fair pricing and low fees appear multiple times.

It bears paying attention to public sentiment and how lawmakers move to resolve these growing concerns.

Perception of practices by some of the larger operators are so poor that suspicions may be raised about the entire event industry, painting everyone with the same brush. Engaging in relatively straightforward demand based or dynamic pricing practices may easily get lumped in with attempts at artificial manipulation, shunting tickets directly to resale markets and excessive fees.

Friendly Fraud And Other Ticketing Trends To Watch

Last week there was a post on the INTIX website listing 19 trends for 2023.  The list contains prognostications from people handling tickets for both arts and sports events so your mileage my vary on some of the thoughts, but I wouldn’t totally dismiss those that don’t align with your favorite industry.

At the top of the list is being able to identify all the ticket holders and potentially cultivate relationships with them rather than the ticket buyer. Because the ticket buyer will often distribute tickets electronically to family and friends, it will be possible to identify who those people are. You may view this news with with anticipation, dread or both.

Unsurprisingly, staffing issues were also near the top of the list due to the stress of dealing with customers and low pay don’t make customer service roles attractive. What also won’t be surprising to find on the list is an anticipated increase in fraudulent purchases, including what the article terms “friendly fraud” where customers initiate chargebacks on ticket purchases.

“I think that we will also see an increase in what’s called first-party [or friendly] fraud, where if a lot of ticket buyers do not get the refunds that they want, they will file a chargeback. I think that will start to happen as well because people were so used to refunds happening for so long during COVID. I think people still want to be able to get refunds, and especially, unfortunately, with inflation, people might be looking at how they can get their money back, and they might go that route of chargebacks.”

Related to this is the need to provide more flexible purchasing arrangements as people move away from subscription purchases. So not only flexible subscription packages, but targeted discounts. And flexible refund and exchange policies.

“We saw such movement during the pandemic of adapting away from ‘no refunds, no exchanges.’ It was such a hard line in the sand, and we had to blow that all away because we needed to change things … due to health concerns and restrictions,” Spektrix’s Nothstein says. “I think we are going to continue to see flexibility in that perspective.”

“We had to offer things that we would not have previously considered offering because of COVID and what it meant to the return to the venue,” Ticket Philadelphia’s Cooper says. “I don’t know that it’s practical or advisable for us to try and revert to what we were in the days before COVID happened … Ultimately, the goal is to retain the customer.”

The Director of Service and Retention for the Oakland Athletics, mentioned that people were buying on a very short horizon rather than season ticket packages or single tickets months before opening day. They structured a very targeted, short term ticket sale for the celebration of 50th anniversary of the A’s 1973 World Series title.

Ziegenbusch continues, “So, think shorter, getting your patrons to make these micro-decisions along the way. Present offers that are deeply discounted and value-rich but for a short period of time.”

I have seen Collen Dilenschneider offer similar advice to arts organizations on her website.

The article also raises the need for accessibility both to allow those with physical disabilities to participate in events, but also as accessibility relates to diversity, equity and inclusion. This is both in terms of programming/how an experience is structured and how it is priced.

Also listed were broadening the media and channels through which people can learn about your organization and make purchases, including facilitating transactions and empowering self-service.

I am obviously skimming over a lot so if the ticketing side of your operations is a central concern, give the article a deeper read.