Enrichment Arts & Culture

Why movie tickets will only be $3 on Saturday

Saturday, Sept. 3 will mark the inaugural National Cinema Day and over 3,000 movie theaters across the U.S. will offer $3 tickets to patrons of all ages, with no limitations on which movie or format.
Moviegoers wait for a film to start at the AMC 16 theater, Monday, March 15, 2021, in Burbank, Calif. Mark J. Terrill/ AP

Story at a glance

  •  Saturday will be the first ever National Cinema Day.

  • Movie theaters across the country will offer $3 tickets to draw in more moviegoers. 

  • In 2021, just 47 percent of the U.S., Canada population went to a movie theater at least once. 

Thousands of movie theaters will be offering tickets for just $3 on Saturday as the cinema industry attempts to draw in customers over a long weekend that typically doesn’t see a lot of movie-goers.  

The Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit connected to the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), is launching the inaugural National Cinema Day. Over 3,000 movie theaters are participating by offering $3 tickets to customers of all ages. That’s a steep discount, as nationally the average U.S. movie ticket was $9.16 in 2019

Major theatre chains including AMC and Regal Cinemas are planning to offer $3 movie tickets for all major film studios, in every format like IMAX and 4D. Movie goers can see films like “The Invitation,” “Bullet Train,” “Beast” and “Top Gun Maverick,” some of the top performing movies for the last week of August. 

In addition to offering $3 movie tickets, Cinemark Theatres is going further by offering $3 beverages, candy and popcorn. 

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“After this summer’s record-breaking return to cinemas, we wanted to do something to celebrate moviegoing,” said Jackie Brenneman, president of Cinema Foundation, in a press release.  

“We’re doing it by offering a ‘thank you’ to the moviegoers that made this summer happen, and by offering an extra enticement for those who haven’t made it back yet.” 

The coronavirus pandemic devastated the movie industry, with NATO even starting an awareness campaign dubbed #SaveYourCinema that resulted in moviegoers across the U.S. sending over 200,000 letters to Congress asking for more federal relief.  

That’s in addition to the rise of streaming services, where Americans can watch movies and TV shows of their choice from the comfort of their couch.  

It’s a reality the movie industry is attempting to grapple with, as the Motion Picture Association (MPA) admitted in its annual report that the U.S./Canada box office market was $4.5 billion in 2021, a 105 percent increase from 2020, but still significantly lower than 2019.  

In 2021, just under half, 47 percent, of the U.S., Canada population physically went to a movie theater at least once—which is about 168 million people.  

At the same time, MPA found 80 percent of U.S. adults watched movies and shows through traditional TV services and online subscriptions. 

Some media companies are trying to reach viewers in both places, like when Warner Bros. announced it would release the film “Dune” on its streaming service HBO Max at the same time it would also be airing in theatres.  

“Dune” director Denis Villeneuve blasted the decision, writing in an op-ed for Variety, “streaming services are a positive and powerful addition to the movie and TV ecosystems. But I want the audience to understand that streaming alone can’t sustain the film industry as we knew it before COVID.” 

Villeneuve went on to explain that his film was created with the intention of a “big screen experience,” with images and sound meticulously designed to be seen in a movie theater. 

National Cinema Day could help jumpstart the movie industry, enticing moviegoers to visit a theater instead of opting to watch through a paid subscription service.  

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