DAILY NEWS: Movie Tickets Hit $10; Greenlight Picks Filmmaker
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
>> Loews Cineplex Movie Ticket Prices Hit $10 in Manhattan Today; Other Exhibitors Taking Wait and See Approach
(indieWIRE/03.02.01) -- The cost of seeing a movie in Manhattan has hit a
watershed mark, $10. Today, Loews Cineplex, a leading chain that has been
facing financial difficulties and recently filed for bankruptcy protection,
will raise ticket prices 50 cents, to the $10 mark in Manattan. The top
price in Los Angeles will hit $9. In a conversation with indieWIRE
yesterday, Mindy Tucker, Loews Cineplex Entertainment's Corporate VP of
Strategic Planning, attributed the increase to "the rising cost of operating
theaters in Manhattan," calling the borough "a very expensive place to
operate." Tucker added that the price has not been raised in two years, but
indicated that prices will be increased by an average of 25 cents across the
country. She added that the increase is in no way connected to Loews
Cineplex financial woes.
New York City Council Speaker Peter Vallone called Loews decision,
"insulting and fundamentally unfair," in a prepared statement sent to
indieWIRE yesterday. Vallone called for a boycott of Loews when it raised
ticket prices to $9.50 in Manhattan two years ago, saying the increase was
"a mugging of our middle class." In yesterday's statement, he stopped short
of calling for a boycott, but called the decision "insulting and
fundamentally unfair," and added, "average New Yorkers and their families
can no longer afford to go to the movies."
Moviegoers here in New York are now expecting the other chains to follow
suit. Kurt Hall, President and CEO of United Artists Theaters, told
indieWIRE yesterday that his company is not raising prices. "We are going
to let Loews lead the way," he offered, "We are going to watch it carefully
[but] there are no current plans to increase ticket prices."
Other theater owners such as AMC Theaters and City Cinemas, which runs the Angelika Film Center, are also sitting tight with their $9.50 ticket prices
in Manhattan (a city that does not offer discount matinees). "We come to our
own decisions on prices," quipped one Loews competitor who asked not to be
identified, "You follow them too far and you end up bankrupt."
Of course, this has been a tough time for the theater chains. But some see
hope on the horizon. United Artists Theaters President and CEO Kurt Hall
told indieWIRE late yesterday that his company is coming out of bankruptcy
today (Friday). The stabilization of the theater circuits is going to be a
slow process, Hall admitted. "It will probably be a three year period, it's
going to take some time." [Eugene Hernandez]
>> Damon, Affleck and Team Unveil Project Greenlight "Star"
(indieWIRE/03.02.01) -- Never mind "Survivor," "Temptation Island," or "The Mole," not too mention the fictional "Series 7," in which contestants fight
each other to the death. The latest reality TV show to come along is even
more outrageous, its all about the making of a new Miramax movie.
Dubbed Project Greenlight (www.projectgreenlight.com), the program is being
spearheaded by LivePlanet.com founders Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Chris Moore. The group spent the past few months weeding through screenplays from 10,000 screenwriters and yesterday announced the winner of the contest.
Pete Jones, writer of "Stolen Summer," won a million dollar production
budget from Miramax, while the company's TV division will document the
making of the movie for a 13 episode show that will air on HBO early next
year. Miramax will then release the movie theatrically in the Spring.
The 31 year-old filmmaker joined Affleck, Damon and others to discuss the
project yesterday via telephone conference call. "We flipped for the idea
when we heard it," commented Damon, "We have always taken exception to
the fact that the only good writers are already working and are in
Jones, who moved to LA from Chicago to pursue his writing career, explained
that he was inspired to seek such a career after seeing Ed Burns' "The
Brothers McMullen" -- "This guy did everything I wanted to," Jones offered.
When asked by indieWIRE how the process of being followed might affect the
process of making the movie, Jones said, "I don't think its going to affect
me at all. its thrilling, you almost forget they are there."
"Ben (Affleck) and I feel that movie sets are inherently dramatic," Matt
Damon told indieWIRE, "We would not have gone forward if we felt it would
interfere with the process." [Eugene Hernandez]