Get a discount, then pay extra

AMC has unfairly added a 'location surcharge' to discounted movie tickets used at certain theaters.

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Sherry Tedeschi is an avid moviegoer, typically hitting a film a week, sometimes two or three.

The Beverly Hills resident usually patronizes the AMC Century City 15 multiplex so she can poke around the Westfield mall after the show. She buys packets of discounted AMC tickets at Costco.

So it was with more than a little dismay that Tedeschi, 69, learned recently that, beginning July 8, her discounted AMC tickets will be slapped with a $2 "location surcharge."

Such fees are a sneaky way that ticket prices are being jacked up at a time when audiences are shrinking and average costs to catch a flick already are near a record high.

Moviegoers nationwide paid an average $7.94 per ticket in the first quarter of this year, according to the National Assn. of Theater Owners. Ticket prices in Southern California typically run at least several dollars more.

The national average is down a smidge from the record $7.96 set a year ago. Movie theater attendance, meanwhile, fell 13% in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to the website Box Office Mojo.

So let's recap: Fewer people are going to the movies, perhaps in part because ticket prices are pretty much higher than ever — and perhaps in part because Hollywood churns out mindless noisemakers such as "Fast & Furious 6."

Some people, though, remain loyal movie-theater customers, and are rewarded for their loyalty with discount tickets that allow them to save a few bucks per show.

But now, AMC, the country's second-largest theater chain after Regal Cinema and a subsidiary of China's Dalian Wanda Group, has decided to turn the screws on some of its best customers by charging them more for certain shows at certain theaters.

"You buy these discount tickets so you can save money and keep going to their movies," Tedeschi told me. "And then they do this?"

John Hande, 57, of Glendale goes to the movies several times a month, usually at the AMC Burbank 16 multiplex.

Like Tedeschi, he buys packets of AMC's discount tickets at Costco. And like Tedeschi, he's none too pleased about the location surcharge.

"They want me to pay twice for the same ticket," Hande said. "That's not right."

The surcharge applies to AMC's Gold and Silver tickets. Gold tickets cost $8.60 each. Silver tickets run $7.10 apiece but come with limitations, such as not being able to use them until two weeks after a movie opens.

Beginning July 8, AMC will apply the $2 surcharge for any Gold or Silver ticket used after 4 p.m. at the AMC Burbank 16, AMC Burbank Town Center 6, AMC Burbank Town Center 8, AMC Century City 15 and AMC Santa Anita 16.

I had to make repeated calls to AMC and send in multiple emails before a company spokesman, Ryan Noonan, would answer my questions.

He wasn't particularly forthcoming.

"We periodically evaluate and modify our pricing based on competition and market conditions, and the $2 surcharge for shows that begin at or after 4 p.m. is necessary at a handful of our L.A. locations," Noonan said by email.

I asked him to elaborate.

"After evaluating competition and market conditions, which we do regularly, we felt the surcharge was necessary for our business at those locations," Noonan replied. "Gold and Silver tickets still provide a minimum 20% savings at the box office at those locations."

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