Look, Iíll get it out right up front; Iím a cheap bastard. By necessity. Iím poor, so Iím cheap. I like to spend money with the best of them when I have it, but when I donít, Iíll juice a penny. Iím the guy who upon reading about the parking meter scam run by downtown homeless thinks, ìhmm, not a bad idea.î So every time I find myself at the Arclight theater on a Friday night, I wonder two things: 1) why do the tickets cost three dollars more on the weekend and 2) is this really worth fourteen bucks?
I know, I know. Itís the best theater in Los Angeles, maybe the world. But with national ticket prices middling at $6.21, is fourteen dollars reasonable? An offhand comment made last Friday by the twenty-something woman selling me the tickets for Lords of Dogtown cast further doubt:
ìIf we didnít get to see movies for free, we couldnít afford to see them at all.î
Itís obvious when you think about it, but hearing it said out loud, it sounded absurd. Working full-time at a movie theater and unable to afford the price of admission?! Itís true, with the exception of the bartenders and wait staff in the Arclight cafÈ (who also, BTW, see the movies for free), your run-of-the-mill Arclight employee with regular expenses like rent, transportation, and food cannot afford to see movies at the theater by which he or she is employed.
While rethinking whether or not I could afford to see movies there, I sarcastically suggested unionization to which the woman replied with a stone-cold, straight face that the attempt had been made and that the people who orchestrated it no longer worked there. The insinuation was that they had been terminated for attempting to organize.
“So what?” after the jump…
From one perspective, who cares if Arclight employees donít make enough to see a movie at the theater where they work? There are plenty of waiters, waitresses, and bartenders in Los Angeles who canít afford to eat or drink at their places of employment, but thereís a difference. If you work at an expensive dining establishment with a reputation for luxury, youíre likely earning a premium in gratuities, not so at a movie theater. Also, letís examine the product. Arenít movies supposed to be entertainment for the masses? Like sweatshop workers, Arclight employees canít afford the very product they sell. But this isnít designer clothing or tennis shoes; itís a fricking movie! And donít tell me itís a premium paid for a quality venue. With the exception of the Vista, where else can you see a movie after dark for less than a ten spot in LA? The higher cost of living? The masses for whom these movies are made make as little in Los Angeles as they do anywhere else. Case in point.
Beyond the possibility that box office is down because expensive venues are driving a large portion of the population to their televisions and DVD players, the unpleasant externality is one of decreased community, an insulation of certain socio-economic levels and thereby, ethnic groups. What happens to the sense of commonality? The sense that we are as human beings, on some level, the same? Instead of the communal excitement affirming our similarities when the theater dims and the projector starts, all us poor people are at home, disenfranchised, sitting in front of a flickering loneliness box, considering our differences. And getting angry.