Whether in Barcelona or Berlin, you can usually count on movie ticket prices creeping up.

Offshore territories tend to be more volatile than the U.S.. Prices abroad have gone up a cumulative 46% over the past 20 years; the current U.S. average is $6.22, up 15% from $5.40 in 2000.

“Exhibitors around the world have a pretty good idea of what people are willing to spend to see a movie and can adjust that pretty quickly,” one distrib vet said.

That means cinemas in Tokyo can charge $20 per ticket; the average ticket in Japan is $11. Tickets in such major cities as Paris, Sydney, London and Munich go for the same $10 or so that’s charged in New York and Los Angeles.

Multiplexing has become a key driver in pricing as exhibs seek to recoup their investments in markets such as Mexico, where prices have doubled in the past six years to as much as $3 for a top venue.

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London-based Informa Media calculates the average worldwide ticket price is $2.68 — $6.05 in North America, $6.01 in Europe and 70¢ in the Asia Pacific region, which accounts for 60% of worldwide admissions but only 15% of worldwide gross.

The average worldwide price is up by 4¢ from a year ago and by just over a dollar since 1995; Informa predicts it will hit $2.86 by 2010.

In recent years, France, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Australia have seen relatively modest or no hikes; increases in Italy, Spain, Mexico, Greece, Norway and the U.K. have been more pronounced.

Price drop in Japan

Japanese prices — the highest in the world — actually declined 15% between 1999 and 2002 due to intense competition. In Germany, the abundance of multiplexes has sparked special-rate days to lure price-conscious moviegoers.

Italians have not seen even a slight admissions increase since the single currency came onstream in 2001; in fact, tickets are costing less.

“In certain cities, the ticket prices can reach a maximum of x7.50 ($10.20), but we promote the sales of more afternoon and weekday tickets that cost less,” Roman booker Gino Zaggari said.

Spain offers a typical snapshot: Tickets cost $6.50 last year, up 3% from 2003, accounting for moderate gains in Spanish B.O., which hit $850 million in 2002 and $870 million last year despite slides in admissions in both years.

As elsewhere, location truly matters. A ticket at a top Madrid or Barcelona cinema can cost x6 ($8.20), twice the price at a cinema in the sticks.

(Ed Meza in Berlin, Sheri Jennings in Rome and John Hopewell in Madrid contributed to this report.)