Average cost reaches record high, NATO says

The success of 3D has fueled the largest hike in average ticket prices since 2001.

According to the National Assn. of Theater Owners, this year’s first quarter average stands at $7.95 per ticket, up 8% from the comparable period last year, which totaled $7.35 per ticket.

NATO, which began tracking quarterly prices in 2001, said the average measures all ducats sold, ranging from children’s tickets to premium pricing. But it’s 3D films like Disney’s “Alice in Wonder land” and 20th Century Fox’s “Avatar” that have skewed average prices. “Avatar” ranks as the first quarter’s top grosser, with $457.5 million, followed by “Alice,” which earned $299.5 million during that same period.

Also, with the success of “Avatar” in its first three weeks of release, last year’s fourth quarter average rose to $7.61 per ticket, higher than 2009’s overall $7.50 price tag.

“The increase definitely shows the impact of 3D screenings,” said Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research for NATO. “But it’s still one of the least expensive forms of out-of-home entertainment.”

Ticket prices have seen a steady increase over the past years, with a 4% rise from 2008 to 2009. Still, adjusted for inflation, 2010 ticket prices are the same compared to those in 1967.

The 2010 summer slate will see additional 3D offerings, starting with the toon franchise installments “Shrek Forever After” and “Toy Story 3,” on May 21 and June 18, respectively. Paramount will launch “The Last Airbender” on July 2, followed a week later by Universal’s toon “Despicable Me.”

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