New Yorkers have maintained their affinity for the big screen despite the high city-wide cost of a ticket. A family of four (two parents and two children) in greater New York City currently pays $41.65 for a night at the cinema. In 2014, the average was 27 percent less for a receipt of $32.68, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. And price increases haven’t slowed. The Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 in Times Square, for example, raised all of its prices by a dollar on April 1. The Film Society of Lincoln Center did the same thing on January 8.
We zoomed in on New York City’s 55 movie theaters to learn more about ticket costs that consumers were facing. We found widespread variation in cost from theater to theatre, even within the same neighborhoods. Someone walking around downtown Manhattan on an average day on their tickets could save $4 or $5 just by walking a few blocks. The Regal Union Square Stadium 14, which doesn’t offer matinee pricing, would set you back $15.25 for a midday flick. But two other theaters, both within four blocks, offer matinee tickets for $8 or less. Fewer showtimes, yes, but also considerably less expensive.
The most expensive regular adult ticket in New York City was for $17.49 at the AMC Loews on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This particular Loews theater does offer an $8.49 price for a matinee adult ticket; the $9-dollar disparity between matinee and regular cost is the largest in the city. The least expensive regular adult ticket in New York City is for $7.50 at Main Street Cinemas.
The Best and Worst of the Boroughs
For nighttime showings, Queens is the cheapest for adults ($10.21 average), for seniors ($7.81) and for kids ($7.06 average).
Unsurprisingly, Manhattan (average adult ticket price of $12.59 when matinee pricing is included) was the most expensive of the city’s five boroughs. Not a single Manhattan theater we studied offered a sub-$10 price for a regular adult ticket. The average cost of the borough’s 28 theaters was $14.30.
Another Manhattan factoid: Fourteen theaters offer matinee tickets; the other 13 don’t.
Manhattan Neighborhood Watch
To give residents a sense of how Manhattan areas compare, we looked at adult tickets available by theater within each neighborhood. Battery Park, the Upper West Side, and Midtown were three of the most expensive neighborhoods on the island.
Manhattan moviegoers have the most options in the Union Square and Upper West Side neighborhoods, and the best options aren’t far from the worst.
Two blocks from the square, Cinema Village promotes the most affordable regular adult ticket price, $12, besting each of the other four theaters within walking distance by at least $2. (The $15.25 ticket at the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 is the most expensive in walking distance.) Cinema Village offers seven movies to choose from on a given day. Interestingly enough, however, Cinema Village is among the greater New York City theaters to not offer matinee pricing. So if you want to catch a morning or midday movie in the area, two members of the AMC Loews family – the Village 7 just south of the square and the 19th Street East 6 north of it – each offer sub-$8 adult tickets.
Upper West Side
The price rises in this part of town. Both the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd street) and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s two theaters (four blocks north on 65th Street) sell regular adult tickets for $14 – a 20 percent decrease from the $17.49 ticket sold the AMC Loews a mile away, on 84th street. Neither Lincoln-named theater offers a matinee rate, however, so you’re best off heading further uptown for an $8.49 ticket when playing hooky during the week. The AMC Loews’ on 68th and 84th streets both provide customers with the discounted rate for earlier-in-the-day showtimes.
Where to Find the Cheapest Movie Tickets in NYC
Cheapest matinee: Cinemart Cinemas in Queens sells $6 tickets
Cheapest regular: Main Street Cinemas in Queens sells $7.50 tickets
Cheapest matinee: Main Street Cinemas in Queens sells $5 tickets
Cheapest regular: Cinemart Cinemas in Queens sells $6 tickets
Cheapest matinee: Main Street Cinemas in Queens sells $4.50 tickets
Cheapest regular: If Main Street Cinemas in Queens is too far out of your way, the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan sells $6 tickets to its less traditional shows
Cost When It Comes to Independent Theaters
Theaters owned by a larger, parent company (such as AMC or Regal) or a smaller cooperative (like City Cinemas) generally charged significantly more – $3 more in a few cases – than independently-operated theaters. The classic Ziegfield Theater is among them. Now owned by BowTie Cinemas, is the city’s last remaining single-screen auditorium.
One example: The City Cinemas average regular adult price ($15.13) is 12 percent more expensive than the next highest-priced franchise, Regal ($13.46).
Our study analyzed the cost of buying a movie ticket in the greater New York City area. We focused our findings on the three price ranges (adults, seniors and children) and two different time periods (matinee and regular) that are consistent in New York City (and elsewhere). We didn’t shift our study for theatre-to-theater inconsistencies. A few examples: Some offer weekday versus weekend pricing; some provide discounts for students (with IDs, of course) and military members; and a handful have $6 sales on lighter days (“Terrific Tuesdays” and “Wacky Wednesdays” among them). There were also five theaters in our study that offered reduced pricing to members.
When collecting data, we did not include museums and IMAX experiences masquerading as your everyday movie house. We were left with 55 theaters overall.