The Price of a Seat at the Movies

How much did it cost to see a movie in the Roaring Twenties? Like most questions involving money, the answer is “that depends.” Like today, a child’s ticket was less than an adult’s; an afternoon show was less than an evening show; a fancy big-city Movie Palace charged more than a plain, small town theater. In some fancy theaters like Graumann’s Chinese or Graumann’s Egyptian in Hollywood, they staged live song-and-dance spectacles before each movie and charged a good deal more. According to the Motion Picture Association, the national average for a ticket in 1924 was 25 cents, which in today’s terms is about $3.00. Click here to see a scene from a Buster Keaton movie from 1924 that shows theater prices: ten cents for children, 40 cents for adults, and 50 cents for divans (some sort of couch or more comfortable seating for “first class” patrons).

Prices headed upwards throughout the Roaring Twenties, especially during the late 1920s when talkies came to theaters, requiring considerable investment by theater owners in expensive sound equipment. The Great Depression of the 1930s reduced the prices of just about everything, including movies, and about half the theaters in America went out of business.

Published in: on October 11, 2009 at 8:17 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi, Mary. I was born smack in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. I didn’t start going to movies until the early thirties, however. A gang of us kids would go to the old Woodland Theater in East Nashville each Saturday where the price was a dime.

    I came across your name on Goodread’s “Talk About Your Book Here.” You offered a review to Johanna. If you like mysteries, I’ll be happy to send you an ARC of my latest, The Surest Poison. You can read about it on my website at

  2. I’d be delighted to review your new book. Since it’s a mystery, I could post a review on and on the DorothyL listserv. If/When my own mystery is published, perhaps you can return the favor. I’ll send you my address via your webpage.

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