Student Loan Debt, Flat Wages Causing Youth to Ditch Theaters, Says AMC Chief

Gerry Lopez AMC
Ben Hider/NYSE Euronext via Getty Images

Money worries — not gaming or YouTube — are responsible for the decline in younger moviegoers, AMC Entertainment CEO Gerry Lopez told Variety this week at CinemaCon.

Over the past five years attendance among moviegoers ages 18 through 39 has steadily declined, raising concerns about the long-term health of an aging audience. That’s led some analysts and observers to speculate that movies lack the sizzle of digital entertainment when it comes to generations that spent their formative years online.

Younger consumers still like going to the movies, Lopez argued; they just can’t afford going as much as they once did. “I have seen no indication whatsoever that there’s less enthusiasm,” Lopez maintained. “I have seen changing economic conditions.”

It’s not just the rising costs of cellphone or cable bills that are eating into discretionary spending. There are macro-economic trends at play, he stressed. “They just have less money, and they need to be more careful about how they choose to spend their money,” he said. “I worry about the amount of disposable income this segment has available to spend.”

Studies show that wages have stagnated or declined over the past 35 years. At the same time, college loan debt has reached punishing levels. The average graduate leaves college with loan bills totaling $28,400, according to a 2014 Project on Student Debt report.

Theater owners have stressed that moviegoing remains a relatively affordable entertainment option, with national ticket prices hovering around $8 on average in recent years. However, analysts emphasize that the alternatives they are measured against, such as the cost of going to music concerts or baseball games, are deceptive. Moreover, premium theatrical formats such as Imax or 3D carry surcharges that make hitting the multiplexes a more costly proposition.

“Pricing is a problem,” said Marla Backer, an analyst with Research Associates. “People don’t think about movies the same way they think about sports or music. They go to movies on more of a recurring basis, but they’re willing to spend more on baseball because they only go to one or two games a season.”

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  1. Kevin says:

    It’s not like Gerry is doing his part – they keep jacking up prices across the board and now they’ve got a stupid price scheme where ticket prices are no longer round numbers (my guess is so they’ll be easier to jack-up). I hope the DOJ tells him he’s got to compete on an even playing field and other competitors enter the market – let’s see how long AMC lasts when they have to compete on quality of the experience (not very long once everyone else has recliner seats).

  2. cadavra says:

    But…but…the 12-34 crowd is the one with all the money. Old people have no money. Isn’t that what they’ve kept insisting for the past 20 years? And now they’ve finally figured out that maybe, just maybe, they were wrong, after all?

    Congratulations! You’ve finally entered the real world!

  3. RKAR says:

    This is coming from the CEO of the company that puts a $2 “location fee” on any discount tickets when using them at any of their theaters that are profitable.

  4. Politically Incorrect says:

    Hollywood has pushed the global elite progressive agenda down our throats which involves implementing socialism here via undermining/destroying the Constitution. We’ve watched it with the “gay marriage” BS, Obamacare (Socialized medicine), their anti-science BS regarding “climate change” of which the regulations have killed jobs and put small businesses out of commission…Hollywood’s politics + crappy anti-American movies=why box office receipts are down. See: Elysium vs. American Sniper.

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