The cost of a movie ticket is about to reach $20 because cinema attendances are not increasing enough to cover operating costs, according to the head of one of WA's biggest cinema chains.
Grand Cinemas managing director Allan Stiles, who runs six cinemas in WA, said some chains could soon follow the lead of Eastern States counterparts by pushing prices up to $20 for an adult ticket to cover higher rents, wages, maintenance costs and payments to film distributors.
Mr Stiles said they were operating on slim profit margins and tried to keep ticket prices low but "the time had come" for some to pass costs on to customers.
"It's a big move, it's a gutsy move but the time has come," he said. "As far as the industry's concerned, I think we're all trying to be fair because we all have families, too, but we have to make a living."
A survey of Perth cinemas by The West Australian two years ago found the average price of a standard adult ticket was $17.75.
Adult tickets at Perth's major cinema chains cost an average $18.50 and some WA cinemas charge $19.50 for a standard adult ticket.
Five years ago, Mr Stiles' chain was charging about $14 for a ticket, which had increased to $19 for an adult ticket this year.
Mr Stiles said despite the increasing prices, only about a third of cinema patrons paid full price, instead using loyalty cards or discount tickets.
He has joined a chorus of cinema operators in the Eastern States who blame piracy for the slow increase in attendances, which at his chain was just 5 per cent in the past two years.
Mr Stiles said film downloads were destroying "every common denominator" of the cinema industry, and they particularly affected attendances at films aimed at people aged between 15 and 30.
"I'd say we'd get 10 to 15 per cent more if it wasn't for piracy," he said. "It's disappointing. Rents go up, outgoings go up, the cost of our goods goes up and attendances over the past five or six years have seen a minimal increase."
He said film distributors had also increased their take of the ticket price from 34 per cent in 1993 to a 46 per cent cut this year.
Reading Belmont manager Jodie Schoemaker said the cinema was keeping its costs down with online sales and cheaper digital cinema.
She said customers had remained loyal despite previous price increases.