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LSC to Raise Movie Ticket Price

By Vipul Bhushan
and Eric Richard

Staff Reporters

The Lecture Series Committee may have threatened the stability of the Boston-area Consumer Price Index when it increased ticket prices by 50 cents early this month.

At LSC's Feb. 8 general committee meeting, the committee voted to raise its price for standard movie admissions from $1.50 to $2.00, effective Sept. 1. Yesterday, LSC's executive committee voted to increase Superticket prices from $28 to $35, increasing prices from $1.40 to $1.75 per movie.

An LSC ticket is one of many goods included in the calculation of the Boston CPI, which is ultimately used to compute the nation's CPI. The price increase will have a negligible effect.

LSC Chairman Scott D. Centurino '94 was not surprised by the increase in standard admission prices, saying, "It was time for it to happen." The last increase -- a 50-cent jump from $1 to the current $1.50 -- occurred in 1987 and, according to Centurino, "made [the current increase] past due."

Given its current revenues, LSC "can barely keep its equipment going," said Jerome D. Marty '93, LSC treasurer. LSC could survive without the price increase, he explained, but would be unable to sponsor lectures, make equipment upgrades, or replace major pieces of equipment.

Funding needed for lectures

Centurino justified the price increase by citing a desire to continue offering lectures, the increasing expenses of movies, a decreasing attendance, and a four-year absence of major equipment purchases. LSC hopes to use the increased revenue to improve the lectures it sponsors. While LSC has brought such speakers as Isaac Asimov, William Shatner, Jacques Cousteau, and Mel Blanc, Marty said the lecture budget "has been miniscule" in recent years, making the sponsorship of such general appeal lecturers financially impossible.

"We would like to get more general interest lectures," said Centurino. "Lectures lately have been by relatively narrow-interest people."

James L. Kirtley Jr. '94, lecture director, said he hopes the increase will "jump start the lecture series in the coming years."

Marty explained that fees for lecturers have been increasing rapidly as well. While LSC was able to fill Kresge Auditorium in 1987 by providing Leonard Nimoy with an $8,000 honorarium, Marty estimated that it would cost approximately four times as much today.

LSC also hopes to upgrade its projection system to digital sound once a standard is adopted by the Motion Picture Association of America, and possibly repair or replace its printing press, Centurino said.

Movies costs have risen

The other major increase in LSC's expenditures has been the rising price of movies, explained Marty. He attributed some of the price increase to the effects of a near-monopoly on distribution of second-run films. Older movies, he went on to say, like the ones LSC shows on Sundays, have risen substantially in price over the past five years.

Centurino does not think the price increase will affect movie attendance, saying the increase "is on a small scale," and ticket prices would still cost less than one-third of the prices charged at local theaters. He contended that time is a greater factor than money for most MIT students in deciding whether or not to attend LSC movies.

Centurino ascribed the slightly falling movie attendance to a "shift in the focus of MIT," making it "more likely [that students would] do other things for entertainment." He also dismissed videotape rentals as a direct competitor for movie patrons, observing that both were relatively cheap.

Movie patrons tend to agree with Centurino's assessment. "It's still pretty cheap compared to the theater or renting a movie," said Pappudu Sriram '96, "It wouldn't bother me."

Sriram does not think the price increase will change the roughly six movies per term she sees, explaining that her attendance "would depend on what [LSC was] playing."

Umar Farooq '96 thinks LSC "shouldn't raise prices if they can help it," although he feels $2 is "still okay." Farooq said he currently watches two or three LSC movies per week, and did not think the price increase would affect his attendance much.

Debate at the general committee meeting was lively at times, with members concerned about raising the price of what they maintained should be provided as a community service. Proponents of the price increase proposal countered that a higher admission price would increase the quality of movies and provide better lectures, which was LSC's original mission. Despite the lengthy debate on the issue, the motion passed with 67 voting in favor, none against, and six abstentions.