Movie tickets: You’ll have to hock the family jewels

Itry not to sound like one of those old geezers who bore the pants off younger folk by telling them over and over again how much better things were back in the Olden Days.

But I will take a little skip down memory lane by noting that the first time I paid for my own movie ticket, the price for the double feature (plus cartoon) was 25 cents. Before long, the price for that movie ticket went up to 50 cents and my mother, who remembered paying a nickel for a Saturday matinee, said I shouldn’t be wasting my allowance or lawn-mowing money on such a ridiculously expensive frill.

I’ll also note that at the same time, the price of a McDonald’s hamburger was 20 cents. Cheeseburgers were 25 cents. If you went out to a better restaurant (one with cloth napkins), a cheeseburger was a buck.

That meant that on the weekend, my buddies and I could walk downtown to the theater, see a movie and have a couple of McDonald’s cheeseburgers afterward for a little over a dollar.

This week, I saw that same burger on the dollar menu, and in many movie theaters across the country, I’d be paying around 20 bucks to see the new 3-D version of “Alice in Wonderland” or “Clash of the Titans.” That’s because movie companies, hoping to cash in on the success of “Avatar,” raised ticket prices for 3-D movies about 20 percent last Friday.

Tickets for old-fashioned, boring, 2-D movies are slated to increase only 5 percent this year, but that still means we can expect to pay between $12 and $12.50 for movie tickets soon.

I wouldn’t pay that much to see either of those 3-D movies, even if I did get to see Liam Neeson roaring, “Release the kraken!”And apparently, the price increases haven’t hit most theaters in New Jersey yet — but we know it’s only a matter of time.

So according to my calculations, the price of my after-movie hamburger has increased 300 percent since the time I bought my first movie ticket. The price of the 3-D movie ticket (apples and oranges, admittedly) will soon have gone up 7,900 percent nationwide, and the price of an old-timey, 2- D ticket will soon have gone up 4,900 percent.

What’s wrong with this picture? I hope the movie companies will understand when I say I’m going to stay home from now on and watch movies that I get from Netflix (three at a time for $16.99 a month), or new releases I get “on demand” for around $7.

I stopped buying movie popcorn (marked up around 1,300 percent by the theaters) and other treats a long time ago because I was fed up with being robbed by the theater for secondrate popcorn and Jujubes. I figure this will just be an extension of my personal revolt.

I don’t think I’ll be the only one staying home, either. When I was raising kids, a $100 outing, say to the water park, only happened once or twice a year, and we had to save up.A mom and dad taking their two kids to see “Alice in Wonderland” these days will be looking at over a $100 tab, just for movie tickets and popcorn.

At least the cheeseburgers or pizza afterward will still be a bargain.

• • • On another entertainment front, you might have heard recently that the Blockbuster chain announced that it would have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy unless it could convince its creditors to restructure its debt.

The company has already had to close around 1,300 of its stores and would like to close down hundreds more. It’s also talking about changes to make it more competitive, like opening video kiosks and offering a DVD mailing service like its main competition, Netflix.

The company said that “increasingly competitive industry conditions” were responsible for its troubles, but I think the whole thing boils down to two things: the fact that you had to drive to a store to pick up and return your movies, and those darned late fees.

If the company had done away with those punitive fees and instituted a DVD by mail service long ago, it wouldn’t be in the place it is today. But once people figured out that if they signed up with Netflix they could get their movies delivered quickly and conveniently by mail and without wait times (except in rare circumstances), and they’d never have to pay a late fee, it was all over for Blockbuster but the shoutin’.

It’s a classic case of a thriving business in which the executives were too slow and too reluctant to respond to changes in the marketplace.

And now it’s too late.

• • • I was tickled to read recently that a study by the University of California, Berkeley, had proved that a nice nap helps people learn better and be more productive.

Specifically, it found that subjects who had a nap beforehand and were rested and refreshed before learning retained the information better than those who were pooped. In the study, peoplewho had a nap before a learning session improved their learning ability by about 10 percent. Napless subjects did 10 percent worse.

One of the researchers said that at some point in the lives of most adults, we stop thinking that there were important benefits to sleep and start associating sufficient sleep with laziness. Now there’s scientific proof that wellrested people aren’t at all lazy and in fact learn better and are more productive.

So you managers out there who are looking for ways to improve your productivity ought to pay attention. Instead of putting extra-strength coffee in the break room, you should get on the public address system about 2 p.m. and announce that all employees should get out their mats, lie down beside their desks and take a 30- minute nap.

If you told a bunch of 5-year-olds to do that, they’d just whine and complain. But I doubt there’d be a single grumble in the cube farm if you announced a company-sanctioned dozearama — unless old Bob in accounting starts snoring.

You might even have a contest to see who can bring the cutest feetie-jammies.

Gregory Bean is the former executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at gbean@gmnews.com.