Updated Aug 21, 2023 - Economy

Coming soon to a theater near you: $4 movie tickets

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Movie tickets for "Barbie," "Oppenheimer" and the rest of the season's lineup will drop to $4 — a fraction of their regular price — at theaters nationwide this Sunday.

Why it matters: The movie industry was on the verge of collapse during the pandemic, but the smash success of Barbenheimer gave it a big boost.

  • "It's the second-best July in history. And for some movie theaters, it was their best month ever," Jackie Brenneman, The Cinema Foundation's president, told Axios.
  • 2023 is on track to be the best year for the box office since 2019 when 1.2 billion movie tickets were sold, according to box-office data website The Numbers.

The big picture: The Cinema Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the National Association of Theater Owners, announced Monday that Aug. 27 is the second annual National Cinema Day for the U.S.

  • Tickets for all showtimes, including premium format screens like IMAX and Dolby Cinema, "will be no more than $4," the foundation said in a news release.
  • More than 3,000 movie theaters with 30,000-plus screens across the country will participate.
  • The foundation has set up a Cinema Day website with a list of participating theaters.

Flashback: The first U.S. National Cinema Day was held last year during Labor Day weekend, which has long been considered one of the slowest weekends for theaters.

  • An estimated 8.1 million moviegoers attended the inaugural event, where tickets were $3.
  • Movie theaters collected box office returns of $23.8 million even with the discounted tickets, 8% ahead of the preceding Saturday, per a foundation report.

What they're saying: Brenneman told Axios that this year it will be a "bigger and better day" with a "huge increase in the number of titles."

  • "Last year was a thank you to moviegoers. This year, it's much more about celebration," Brenneman said. "So you're going to see newer titles and four movies opening that weekend."

Zoom out: Close to 609 million movie tickets have been sold as of Aug. 20 compared to 709 million sold in 2022, per The Numbers data.

  • In 2021, 434 million tickets were sold, and 2020 had a dismal 211 million tickets sold.

Editor's note: This story was updated with additional details on ticket sales.

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