Hd The Value
Amid all the hype surrounding last week’s opening of the latest “Star Wars” installment was an intriguing economic angle and it had nothing to do with the box-office take.
It instead centered on reports that scalpers were getting as much as $100 in some locations for tickets to the first screening of the film at 12:01 a.m. Even allowing for some exaggeration (typical in these kinds of news reports), we’ll assume that any number of moviegoers snapped up tickets at prices well beyond their $8 face value.
The question, of course, is why. Despite the film’s huge box-office success last week, you could still walk up to most any theater in the United States a few hours after that first show and purchase as many tickets as you wanted without the markup. The only intrinsic value in shelling out more money to see the midnight show is telling your friends that you were among the first to see “The Phantom Menace” a dubious distinction since over the last few days many other Americans have seen the George Lucas film.
Whatever the explanation and when you’re dealing with “Star Wars” fans, there’s no shortage of explanations the Wednesday morning pilgrimage provides a sobering illustration of how money has been devalued. A hundred bucks isn’t what it used to be not only in terms of what it will buy but how it is perceived. For many, money is now considered more a means to an end rather than a commodity unto itself.
The phenomenon can be seen most clearly among the very wealthy let’s say those in the eight- or nine-figure territory for whom money is merely a convenient way to chalk up wins and losses. “After a certain point, it doesn’t really matter,” one multimillionaire told the Business Journal last year. “You just buy all the best things whether you really need them or not.”
To some extent, this attitude seems to be pervading the middle class. You see it in what’s being purchased these days powerful personal computers with features most users will never use, mammoth SUVs that will only be driven on freeways and city streets, and $500-a-night hotel rooms that are no more luxurious than those going for $200 a few years ago.
“It’s only money” has become the reliable mantra.
Certainly, the economy plays a big role in this attitude and in particular, Wall Street. With an unemployment rate in the 4.5 percent range and individual investors cleaning up on Microsoft, Dell, America Online, etc., there’s lots of money to throw around. That engenders a more nonchalant attitude about plunking down a few hundred or even a few thousand bucks for the latest high-tech toy or a last-minute vacation to Hawaii.
The problem, however, is that for most of us, money does have value. If there is any doubt, talk to someone struggling to get by on $400 a week. Or better yet, someone who had it, spent it and then lost it.
Such cautionary notes may seem quaint at a time when L.A.’s 50 wealthiest individuals are worth a total of $60 billion, and when thousands of Angelenos have a net worth of at least $1 million. But when people are paying $100 for an $8 movie ticket, it’s perhaps time to reflect on whether this detachment might be getting out of hand.