This week AMC theaters announced a new ticketing policy. The price of your movie ticket will depend upon where you sit in the movie theater. That kind of pricing policy is, of course, nothing new. Theater, opera, ballet, sports, and orchestras have always priced their tickets by how close you want to be to the action.
But the movies, the movies were the venue of the common person. No matter who you were or where you sat, you paid the same price as anyone else. But the movies, the movies were the venue of the common person. No matter who you were or where you sat, you paid the same price as anyone else.
America has, of course, always had an elite class. Yes, they are always there, but we only really notice them at certain times in American history. Some, actually many, have been comparing modern America to its Gilded Age forerunner. That was a time in the late 19th century when the very, very rich were conspicuous in their wealth and used it to buy themselves into the social elite. The Kardashians would have fit right in.
The Great Depression and two world wars in a period of thirty years did a lot to flatten the economy and the class system. What emerged was a large and confident middle class. That middle class American has been the shopper we, particularly Boomers, see in our mind’s eye when we think about the average American consumer.
[They were] a comfort to the toy industry because we knew them so well. We knew what they were willing to pay ($19.99), what drove them to purchase (the lowest price), where they lived (everywhere), and what they wanted (disposable plastic)?The Average, Affluent American Shopper, Richard Gottlieb, Global Toy News, March 2, 2021
That shopper is disappearing as we see the return of a class system in the U.S. based on wealth. From where did these 21st century wealthy people come? They are those who went to college, put off having babies until their careers were secured, married, and had two career marriages with family incomes over $500,000 a year. Those who did not attend college, married young, had babies and worked low-wage jobs.
The message for those in the toy industry is to change our perception of who buys our toys. That average shopper is gone. $19.99 may still be the hot price for some, but there is a class of shoppers living primarily in major American cities whose hot price is $69.99 or $99.99. We don’t know for sure what it is. And we need to know.
That movie will look different from where you sit in the audience. In the same sense, the price of that toy is going to look very different to those older, two-career parents than it does to those who just get by.