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The cost of ... a night at the movies

There is little about this vast, diverse country that all Americans share, except for our love of movies. It's practically un-American not to. Motion pictures form a brilliant thread in the American cultural fabric. We invented them and, dammit, we love them.

We also pay for them, to the tune of more than $8.4 billion in 2001, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

Out on the town
Movie ticket prices have really gone up. The price of admission is $10 in the Big Apple.

While we don't all live in New York City, the fact remains that going to the cinema is the most expensive way to take in a movie -- even if it makes for a fine first date.

Sure, if you select a showing that begins before 6 p.m. or so, you can save a couple of bucks in most markets. The admission price also usually drops for students and those who've graduated from middle age or have yet to reach puberty.

Even for those who are living in prime time, there are still advantages to paying full price and venturing out to the local theater. Nothing beats being startled in step with 50 other people by the seat-rattling sound of an explosion on the big screen. Plus, it's nearly impossible to worry about the dirty breakfast dishes while sitting enthralled in the darkness.

But there's also the part about the couple talking in stage whispers one row back. So let's explore the options.

The drive-in
Many communities still have drive-in theaters where prices tend to be lower. You won't feel quite as much a part of the plot when you watch the action through a dirty windshield, but then, odds are no one is kicking the back of your seat, either -- unless you brought the kids.

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If the screen stars turn out to be a bore, you can always gaze at the stars in the sky. And the people watching is better here than in a blacked-out cinema. Perhaps the best thing is you can get in barefooted.

There is one thing to remember: the drive-in is lousy in the rain. Better you should be home curled on the sofa.

The comforts of home
The cheapest option of all is renting a video or a DVD and taking it home for the evening. Rental stores charge by the piece, not by the head. So, if you feel like company, for a single price you can share the experience with everybody you know. The fee for a new release is generally less than half what it would cost to get in the front door of a theater. Older films are even cheaper. And if you're such a movie buff and hates late fees, why not try a rental subscription? For less than $20 a month, you could rent as many movies you want and have them delivered to your door

Of course, a telemarketer might call just as the plot thickens, but isn't that a small price to pay for getting to watch this thing sprawled out in your jammies?

There are a wide variety of films available for rental, everything from recent blockbusters to old foreign films. But what if you want something truly unconventional?

The exotics
Film festivals are staged in many areas of the country each year to showcase new or experimental works. Festivals may be organized with a theme that keeps some continuity to the content or may be a showcase for fledgling filmmakers whose topics run the full width of human imagination. Either way, they are seldom boring.

Some festival organizers charge as much as a theater would: one ticket per show. Others cluster films together and charge a single admission for hours and hours of entertainment. Now there's a movie deal that's hard to beat!

Any way you figure it, going to the movies is still economical entertainment. Even if you're a minimum-wage worker who decides to splurge on a big night out at the latest big screen blockbuster, it will still take you more time to spend your money than it did to make it.

And that's a good deal in anybody's book.

A sampling of prices:

State City Place/Event Price
Washington Seattle Seattle International Film Festival
May 23 - June 16, 2002
Six-movie pass: $42
Everett AMC Everett Mall Cinema 1-3

Before 6 p.m.
All seats: $3.75

After 6 p.m.
Adult: $7.50
Child: $4.50
Senior: $5.50

Port Orchard Rodeo Drive-in Theatre Adult: $6.50
Ages 6-12: $3.00
Ages 5 & under: Free
Missouri St. Louis St. Louis International Film Festival
Nov. 14 - 24, 2002
To be announced
Kansas City Cinemark Plaza at the Place

Before 6 p.m.
All seats: $3.75

After 6 p.m.
Adult: $7.50
Child: $4.50
Senior: $5.50

Kansas City Boulevard Drive-in

One-ticket, one price for two movies

Adult/12 & up: $6.00
11 & under: Free

Michigan Saugatuck Waterfront Film Festival
June 6 - 9, 2002

Super passes: $150
Good for the entire weekend to all showings and seminars, plus Friday night party.

Daily pass: $45
Priority seating to all films and all seminars on the day purchased

Madison Heights Star Theatres John R

Before 6 p.m.
Adult: $5.75
Child & Senior: $5.50

After 6 p.m.
Adult: $8.25
Child & Senior: $5.50

Dowagiac Five Mile Drive-in Theatre
(open May - Sept.)
Adult: $4.00
5 & under: Free
Florida Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival
Oct. 23 - Nov. 11, 2002


Admission by membership:

Students: $25 valid for 12 screenings
Production Team: $50-$85 valid for 12 screenings

Maroone Moonlight Movie
8 p.m. April - Sept.
7 p.m. Oct. - Dec.


For more information:

West Palm Beach UA Okee Square

Before 6 p.m.
All seats: $4.00

After 6 p.m.
Adult: $6.00
Child & Senior: $4.00

Jacksonville Playtime Triple Family Drive-in

Friday & Saturday:
10 & up: $3.50
9 & under: Free admission with parent

Sunday - Thursday:
$7 per carload for all passengers.



-- Updated: May 7, 2002

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