How Movie Theaters Have Dramatically Changed Since You Were a Kid

Movie Theater Changes

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Movie Theater Changes
Cheapism / Josef Scaylea/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images / RgStudio/istockphoto

Lights, Camera, Inflation

Going to the movies is something that every generation can connect to, yet the experience has changed so much over the years that most people probably don’t remember it the same way.

While most things have changed for the better, there are a few things that used to be easier back in the day — especially the prices. Here are eight ways going to the movies has changed since you were a kid. 

Related: The Highest-Grossing Movie the Year You Were Born

aged seats

1. Seats

To be honest, it’s hard for me to even remember the days before reclining seats, though those are the movie theater seats I sat in for the majority of my life. I don’t ever remember thinking that the setup was bad, but it’s painfully clear to me now how bad it was.

I recently went to see a movie at a theater that didn’t have reclining seats, and it felt like some sort of medieval torture. It was awful. I don’t want to suffer through that type of thing ever again. Does it increase the likelihood of taking a nap by 100%? Yes it does. But that’s a nap, I mean, risk, that I’m willing to take.

Related: 24 Historic Movie Theaters Across America Worth Visiting

Movie Ticket Prices
John Kobal Foundation / Contributor / Getty Images

2. Prices

Here’s an obvious one, but it’s one of the biggest changes movie theaters have experienced. In my day, the 90s, movie tickets were rarely more than $10. In the 80s, you could find them as low as $3.

Today, especially at nice theaters in major cities, a single ticket can cost you more than $20 for a primetime show. And that’s before we even consider things like 3D and IMAX.

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moviepass a.i. art
Cheapism / Bing Image Creator

3. Subscriptions

It’s the above-mentioned rising prices that gave way to one of the greatest things that ever happened to us: MoviePass. In its first phase, MoviePass allowed you to pay $10 a month to see a movie, every single day, at any theater in America. I think lovingly about those days as “The Before Times.”

Now, MoviePass is back with a less-insane-but-still great tiered system, and many theaters have their own internal subscription programs. Regal Theaters, for example, offers a movie every single day for $20 a month, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s still very, very worth it.

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Jaws Marquee
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

4. Coming Attractions

Before the internet was years ahead of every single movie’s development, there was a time when wandering around a movie theater and looking at the posters was your only sneak-peak. I always took a lap around my theater as a kid, just to see what kind of things to look forward to. And then when the trailers started to roll, I had no idea what I was about to see. 

In the age of the internet, most of that magic is gone.

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AMC movie theater box office
AMC movie theater box office by Ser_Amantio_di_Nicolao (CC BY-SA)

5. Nobody Buys Tickets in Person

I’m not sure the last time I actually bought a movie ticket in person, but it certainly hasn’t happened since the pandemic. That used to be a staple of the movie-going experience, but these days all we have to do is book a seat online and head right to it.

Related: The Most Romantic Movie The Year You Were Born

Movie Theater Popcorn Vintage
M. Garrett/Murray Garrett/Getty Images

6. Concessions

Tickets aren't the only thing that have shot up in price at the movie theater. At my theater, a large popcorn costs nearly $12, and I don't even live in one of the biggest cities in the country. Toss in the ticket price, an $8 drink, a $6 candy, and your night at the movies just became as expensive as going out to a good restaurant.

According to SlashFilm, popcorn in 1929 was only a nickel. I've heard people say the popcorn used to be better back in the day, and that makes sense. I'd let you know what I remember paying for popcorn when I was growing up, but now is about as good a time as any to let you in on my dirty little secret: I don't care about popcorn. I know, I know, call the police.

The good news? We've got more concession options today than ever before, with tons of candies, ice cream options, and in some theaters, even alcohol.

Film Projector
Angus B. McVicar/Wisconsin Historical Society/Getty Images

7. Digital Projectors

It wasn’t until 1999 that movie theaters switched over from gigantic reels of film to digital projectors, and things got a lot easier for theaters after that. Nowadays, you’ll need to pay extra to see a movie on film, and that movie is probably going to be by Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino.

Young man watching movie on laptop at home

8. Streaming

Since the pandemic, there’s been a shift in thinking about just what’s worth sending to a theater. It’s not uncommon to be able to stream new releases at home, though usually for about $20. In my opinion, nothing really compares to seeing something on the big screen, but if Martin Scorsese is going to continue to make 100 hour-long movies, it’s nice to know you can pause it whenever you want for bathroom breaks.

Movie Audience Vintage
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

9. Nobody Knows How to Act

I’m not really sure what happened to us as a society, but it seems like proper movie theater etiquette is a thing of the past. There are some very simple rules that must be followed when you’re at a movie, and truly, they’re not that hard.

Thing number one: Shut it. Just zip your lids, y’all. It can’t possibly be that hard not to talk during a movie. Whisper at the very least. I’m blown away by how many people I can hear talking during movies these days.

Thing number two: Your phone has no business here. Don’t use it. Don’t talk on it. Don’t pull up the IMDb app and check the cast list. Just keep it in your damn pocket.

Thing number three: While I have no problem with outside snacks since theaters charge an arm and a leg, please do not bring something excessively pungent into a theater. This isn’t a restaurant. Leave your tuna melt at home, friendo. I once sat next to somebody who was eating a plate of Panda Express, and I had to sit there and smell it the whole time. It took all the restraint I had in the world not to huck their food at the screen and storm out. 

At a movie theater, you are to be neither seen, nor heard, nor smelled. I beg of you, follow these rules.

Related: Rude Awakenings: Etiquette Rules No One Follows Anymore