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Manhattan movies hit $10 mark

NEW YORK — Want to get your fill of "Chocolat"? See who gets eaten in "Hannibal"?

That'll be $10, please.

That's right. In a city where Broadway shows can cost $100 and a meal at the Alain Ducasse restaurant goes for $250 per person, the age of the $10 movie was ushered into Manhattan Friday.

"Ten dollars has kind of been the magic number for a while that no one had hit yet," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Los Angeles-based Exhibitor Relations Co., a company that tracks box office receipts. "What remains to be seen is if people will go along."

The Loews Cineplex Entertainment chain hopes so. But while the hikes will take place at a dozen of the company's theaters in Manhattan, prices will remain unchanged just a few miles away in Brooklyn, where movies cost $8.

The chain, which owns about half of the city's screens, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month and plans to close 21 of its 365 theaters nationwide.

City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who called for a boycott of Friday night movies two years ago when the price rose to $9.50, said breaking the $10 barrier is unconscionable — particularly if baby sitters, parking and popcorn are factored in.

"New York City is the entertainment capital of the world and yet average New Yorkers and their families can no longer afford to go to the movies," said Vallone. "The city should be a place for everyone to enjoy. It should not just be a playground for billionaires and tourists."

Loews spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said the price reflects only a 50-cent increase and going to the movies is still a good deal.

"Real estate is more expensive, labor is more expensive, everything is more expensive in Manhattan," she said. "Hopefully, the consumer will look at this and compare it with other entertainment options and see movies are a bargain."

Average cost of tickets to a New York Knicks basketball game is $91 at Madison Square Garden. And for a Friday or Saturday night performance at the Metropolitan Opera, seats range from $26-$250. (Standing room is $12 in the balcony and $16 downstairs.)

But is all the hubbub over ticket prices enough to make a Manhattanite long for the celluloid palaces of Fresno, Calif. ($7.50 for a movie), Kansas City ($7), Los Angeles ($9) or Jackson, Miss. ($6.50)?

"Living in Manhattan is special, and you pay for it," said 24-year-old Lisa Antonini, who sees four or five movies a month. "Even at $10, it's still comparatively cheap. . . . As long as you like the movie."