Superman may be faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but fans lining up for showings of "Man of Steel" over opening weekend are likely to discover he's powerless against rising movie prices.
A trip to the movies is getting more expensive. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the average ticket price in 2011(the latest figures available) was $7.93, up from $7.89 in 2010. Prices in large cities are even higher.
"There's a segment of the population that values going to the theater for that experience right after a movie is released, and those folks so far have been willing to pay," said Michael Corty, an industry analyst for Morningstar.
In May, Regal Entertainment Group CFO David Ownby said at a Barclays conference that the chain's prices for 2-D movies would likely rise 3 to 4 percent this year, as they have in recent years. At AMC Theaters, effective July 8, moviegoers redeeming discount ticket passes at select theaters in the Los Angeles area will pay an extra $2 "location surcharge." (AMC already tacks on a $1.50 surcharge for Manhattan redemptions.)
But experts say more of the higher cost per trip comes from theatergoers opting in for "premium viewing experiences." Theater upgrades to 3-D projection or bigger screens such as IMAX help justify higher prices, said Agata Kaczanowska, an entertainment research analyst for IBISWorld. Tickets to those showings can add up to $5 to prices.
There's also a trend toward luxe amenities including spacious leather seats that recline, and full dinner and bar menus that can be ordered from and delivered to your seat. Ticket prices for those locations can carry similar premiums, and may entice more spending on concessions, she said.
Higher costs come, in part, as consumers make fewer trips to the movies. Through June 10, the North American box office is down 6.3 percent compared to last year, according to BMO Capital Markets. Some of that can be attributed to factors like weather and movie selection (by this time last year, box office hit "The Avengers" had already been in theaters for a few weeks), said Tim Casey, an industry analyst with BMO Capital Markets.