The Many Ways to See a Film

A big news item in recent weeks involves how the 3D bubble may be bursting and that audiences are being less willing to may the premium price to see 3D films.

Of course, 3D isn’t the only premium-priced way to see a movie.  These days, cinemas feature an entire hierarchy of premium movie experience, each with increasingly more expensive ticket prices.

So, here is a rundown of the different way see movies at major theatres in Canada.  To keep things simple, I’ll stick with the two biggest chains: Cineplex and AMC.

The Basic Experience (i.e. General Admission)
Cineplex Price: $12.75
AMC Price: $13.50

Once upon a time, prices like these would only be charged for evening shows, with a discounted price given for matinees.  Those days are long gone, but there are still ways to get discounts through certain deals (see next category).  General Admission tickets are not cheap, but they are a bargain compared with the premium categories.

General Admission Discounts
Cineplex: $7.50 (on Tuesdays)
AMC: $11.00 (with MovieWatcher card)

Cineplex recently brought back discounted Tuesday tickets, which subtracts $5 from the price.  Also, AMC gives a $2.50 discount through its MovieWatcher program, which results in a much more appealing admission price.  The discounts also apply for premium films, but for simplicity I will just list the general price for them.

RealD 3D
Cineplex: $15.75
AMC: $16.50

In the last few years, RealD and its digitally projected polarized 3D became the main 3D format, replacing the old (and inferior) anaglyph method.  Typically, $3 is added to the price (probably to cover the cost of all those plastic glasses).  While the basic price isn’t too much a jump, the problems start when you combine 3D with one of the other premium formats.

Normal: $15.50
3D: $17.50

The “Enhanced Theatre Experience” is described on the AMC website as having a 20% larger screen and a resolution that is higher than HD.  Essentially, ETX is a poor man’s IMAX, which is gives a slightly better better movie experience for a few dollars more.

Cineplex UltraAVX
Normal: $15.75
3D: $17.75

The most recent of the premium movie experiences, UltraAVX is essentially Cineplex’s version of an IMAX-lite theatre, with its wall-to-wall screen and Dolby 7.1 sound.  Probably the biggest thing that differentiates UltraAVX from other premium movie experiences is the reserved seating on (supposedly) more comfortable leather seats.

Price: $18.50

I like to differentiate this theatre from other IMAX-branded theatres, since this is a result of the IMAX rebranding effort from a couple years ago.  IMAX screens at AMC theatres use digital projection, instead of 70mm film, and are only slightly better than ETX theatres.  As such, those who equate IMAX with an enormous screen may end up being disappointed.

Cineplex IMAX
Price: $18.75

Despite having the highest ticket price of all the premium movie experiences, the classic IMAX screens present at Cineplex theatres are the most worthy of the extra ticket price (though with a price now at $18.75, it’s starting to get ridiculous).  With a screen that is traditionally 72×52.8 feet, there is no alternate when it comes to a true premium experience.


This system that turns movies into a motion simulator ride is more an optional add-on than a true premium experience.  I personally know very little about how D-Box works, including whether or not there’s an extra cost for it.  However, I still felt that I should add it to this list.

Looking at this list, I find it hard to believe how steep the premium movie prices have grown.  It was only a few years ago when Cineplex had only one premium price, with 3D films and IMAX costing the same.  It is quite ridiculous that IMAX now costs nearly $20 to see.  No wonder the last few IMAX films I saw at the Scotiabank theatre were not as full as they were in previous years (doesn’t help that the theatre now has an UltraAVX screen as well, which likely splits the audience).  I personally play it smart and only see the largest releases in IMAX and I usually try to redeem Scene points to see the film for free.

I believe the goal of these premium movie experiences is to give the Average Joe a reason to head out to the cinema, instead of saying home and watching a movie.  However, I believe it is a bit counter-productive to charge so much for a slightly better experience.  The decline in 3D shows that audiences are become more reluctant to pay these premium prices and in the end, they may end up doing more harm than good.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).