How Movie Theaters Make Money | Music Gateway

How do movie theaters make money

Have you ever wondered how movie theaters make money? well, if so, then you’re in luck! This article takes a look at the main revenue and cost streams that need to be managed effectively to ensure cinema remains viable today.

how do movie theaters make money

Movie theaters have operated with primarily the same business principle for decades. However, the industry is starting to change and adopt new ways of presenting films.

Without further ado, this is how movie theaters make money. stay tuned for everything you need to know!

how do movie theaters make money?

how do movie theaters make money

Movie theaters receive approximately 40% of each ticket sold.

They also make money from concessions, which help pay overhead. such as employee salaries, rent, maintenance and cleaning.

Movie theaters derive their income from numerous sources. the most significant is:

  • ticket sales (and membership income, if applicable)
  • food, beverage and merchandising sales
  • advertising revenue (display and brochure)
  • public funding

Most of the revenue comes from the screening of first-run movies and the sale of candy, food and popcorn to the public that attends.

A successful movie results in high ticket revenue and high concession sales. There is little a cinema can do if there is a bad run of premieres.

Revenue is calculated as total tickets x average ticket price. while grant revenue is based on average spending per admission.

how much money do theaters make per ticket?

movie ticket

Ticket pricing considers various factors. The top being local competition, which dictates what people are prepared to pay.

If there’s a multiplex nearby that charges £7.50, it wouldn’t be wise to charge more unless you offer something exceptional.

As a general rule of thumb, the estimated annual admission is 80,000 for a 3-screen theater. the average income per ticket is £6.00 and the annual income per ticket is £480,000.

Friday and Saturday night tickets have higher prices. while Monday or Tuesday nights usually have a discount. special promotions (such as two for the price of one) can be used to boost profile and secure short-term increases in admissions.

how much do theaters pay for movies?

how do movie theaters make money

When it comes to movie theaters paying for films, there are a few things to consider.

Let’s dig a little deeper.

study and theater

arrangements differ.

however, the movie studio typically makes 60% of the profits from the US box office or 20% to 40% overseas.

This depends on film distribution arrangements, deals and other costs associated with overseas distribution. theaters receive the remaining 40%.


The only direct costs for showing movies are movie rental costs.

these depend on several factors. such as the number of screens in the theater, the length of the run, bargaining power with distributors, and the projected popularity of the film.

In the UK, distributors hold most of the power.

They decide which theaters have which movies and when, to maximize revenue. the percentage of movie rentals ranges from 25% to 60% of the box office.

marketing & promotion

High-profile movies need a lot of publicity, even the ones that are suspected of being surprising.

In case you’re curious, this difference in the percentage of tickets going to studios is one of the main reasons box office totals are reported in terms of money and not in terms of tickets.

how the benefits of the films are distributed

how do movie theaters make money

The Recoupment Waterfall is how a film’s income is collected and distributed.

here are the elements that create the cascade:

  • revenue
  • revenue
  • cost

Revenue comes from various sources and then the money is offered to filmmakers through a number of third parties.

Along the way, these third parties can recoup the money they spent up front promoting the film and also collect a pre-agreed fee for their work.

Whatever remains after one party has paid costs and maintained their fees will be passed on to the next party in the chain.

The last part of the cascade appears as “net benefits to producers”. this is when the outstanding money arrives in the production company’s (or their designated collection agent’s) bank account and is then split.

Investors are typically paid in full and then the money is split 50:50 between the investor group and the producer group.

investment agreements


In numerous instances, investment deals can be somewhat more complex, such as:

  • every investor may have different conditions
  • big stars may request a percentage of gross receipts
  • some of the film’s budget may have been provided by returns from taxes

The vast majority of mainstream films released in the UK are based on a revenue split. whereby exhibitors and distributors share ticket revenue after VAT (UK sales tax) is removed.

There is no common figure. the division between exhibitors and distributors can be different for each film and is a point of negotiation when the deal is deliberated.

The difference changes over time, in favor of the exhibitor. Distributors can usually offer a better deal on opening week, and so the more a movie is shown, the more the exhibitor gets to keep with each ticket sold.

only the biggest movies commonly claim more than 50% of the revenue. when this happens, it’s almost always from a major distributor and only in the first week or two of the movie.

Independent film distributors typically receive between 28% and 35% of revenue. this means that for some ‘specialist’ titles (auteur films, small foreign language films, documentaries), exhibitors keep up to 72% of ticket sales.

The UK has one of the highest exhibitor divisions in the world. This is partly due to the comparatively high cost of media advertising in the UK. it is also due to historic agreements between British cinemas and distributors.

As more films are introduced to the UK film market, exhibitors have increasing power to demand better terms from all but the biggest films.

Also, smaller movies are being squeezed by exhibitors and big movies are being squeezed by exhibitors.

now you know how movie theaters make money

how do movie theaters make money

As a film enthusiast, you should now have a pretty good idea of how movie theaters make money!

To conclude, movie theaters derive their income from various sources. such as ticket sales (and membership revenue, if applicable), food, beverage, and merchandise sales, and finally advertising revenue.

Ticket prices are usually based on local competition, so this is worth considering the next time you go to the movies.

If you liked this article, check out other movie reviews on our blog, like the best movie characters of all time, the most famous movie props, and the best movie franchises.

Are you a filmmaker?

Are you an independent filmmaker or interested in the intersection of music and film? then check out our article on music supervisors. With our concierge service and extensive music library, let us help you find music for your movie. sign up for free music gateway now!

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