Saturday night at the movies is getting pricey

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Saturday night at the movies is getting pricey

Film theatres will be looking for another Top Gun: Maverick in 2023

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

Alyson MageeBelfast Telegraph

A new luxury cinema experience arrived in Belfast last month, offering moviegoers a full bar and café as they enjoy the latest releases. It of course comes at a premium with The Avenue in CastleCourt, a £5.2m investment by the Omniplex Cinema Group, topping our table of Belfast cinema prices at £14 a ticket.

Prices were compared for one standard adult ticket to see Air, the story of sports brand Nike’s collaboration with Michael Jordan, on April 13.

Recent investment is clearly apparent in the pricing structure with the next most expensive ticket available from Cineworld SSE Arena, which opened at the end of 2021. Cheapest tickets were available from independent venue The Strand and Odeon Victoria Square, the latter the most affordable at £6.95.

Queen’s Film Theatre wasn’t screening Air but cinema goers could have watched Godland, an ambitious historical epic set in mid-19th-century Iceland, for £8.40 on April 13.

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg was overheard telling Tom Cruise he had “saved Hollywood’s ass” with Top Gun: Maverick at an Oscar nominee luncheon earlier this year. But amid a cost-of-living crisis, is there enough to keep film theatres full in the city this year?

Cinemas have traditionally been an affordable art form for the masses, points out Belfast filmmaker and critic Brian Henry Martin, with the early nickelodeons named after the nickel admission.

“I think there’s no doubt the streaming services have put massive pressure on cinema pricing,” he said. “For the price of a cinema ticket, you can have a streaming service for a month and all the talent that is now working on television.

“Why leave your house when you can watch Blue Lights, Succession, White Lotus or The Last of Us; it’s an endless supply of high-end drama.”

For a family to go the cinema, drinks and snacks can drive the cost up to £40 or £50, and quality or big-event movies are few and far between these days.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny will be the big release of 2023, and cinemas are increasingly turning to 4K restorations of classic movies such as Raging Bull to pull in an audience.

All is not lost, Mr Martin said, highlighting Belfast may have had 40-50 theatres back in its heyday but probably has the same number of screens or more now across a smaller number of venues.

“There’s still appears to be a really strong appetite,” said Mr Martin. “Cinema has faced these things before and it will adapt and that’s what The Avenue is trying to do.”

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