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Movie fans take a hit in wallets

While the Century Theatres' recent 25-cent increase in ticket prices -- from $6.75 to $7 for an evening movie -- may not exactly send you scampering to the bank for a loan anytime soon, it's the beginning of a trend that's sending movie prices only one direction: up.

At $7, the Century's ticket price is the highest in Salt Lake and among surrounding area theaters. Carmike Cinemas charges $6.50, while other first-run theaters such as Loews Cineplex and Cinemark all charge $6."The major circuits are setting the standard for the state, and local theaters can, of course, do nothing but follow suit," said David Sharp of Film Service, a booking agency for local independent theaters.

And while Salt Lake theaters are not charging as much as some New York and California-based theaters -- whose ticket prices are now approaching $10 -- it appears that local theaters are not far off.

However, those used to expensive movie tickets elsewhere are pleased with the prices charged here.

"I think the prices are a bargain, compared to the prices that we have at home," said Marjorie Rowley, on vaca- tion from Santa Monica. "We have a new theater that opened up back home that charges $8.50 a ticket, and I won't go to it."

To others, though, as long as it's a good movie, price is of little consequence.

Cathryn Speery of Sandy, while bemoaning the rising costs of movie tickets and snack bar munchies, continues to go to the movies she wants to see, no matter the price.

Speery, who was attending "Cookie's Fortune" for the third time in less than a month, said that, even if it were cheaper to go to the movies, she'd still be selective about what she chooses to see.

And if prices suddenly skyrocketed? "I'd still go," Speery said. "I'd get my husband to take me."

Movie distributors tend to seek out what will be in their best financial interest, Sharp said. If the choice is given to release their movie at one theater or the other, chances are good they'll go with the theater that charges more. Translation: If viewers want to see a new release, they'll be paying a visit to the most expensive theater.

Even so, the cost of movie prices is a hazy area for most. It's difficult to determine the worth of a movie ticket, except by the merits of public opinion alone.

"Trying to estimate the proper price to go to a movie is like trying to estimate the price of any other event. It's something not tangible," Sharp said.

It's also something many theaters chains would rather not discuss; it's a touchy subject. Century Theatres did not return phone calls about why their ticket price was increased.

"It's a scab they do not want to have picked," Sharp said.

"It's obvious film companies are demanding more," said Julie Withers, manager of The Reel Theatre. "I've heard that there are theaters in California where the only matinee price is the very first show of the day.

"But I think Utah has a fair market. People are continuing to see movies."

While she feels that ticket prices nationally may get even higher, Withers believes that Utah ticket prices will never parallel what larger cities charge.

"They (larger cities) will always be higher," Withers said.