04/12/2016 03:28 EDT | Updated 04/12/2016 03:33 EDT

Cineplex Half-Price VIP Tickets A Strong Sign We Need More Competition

Cineplex's VIP prices are lower in London, Ont.

Canadian retail seems to have a lot of near-monopolies. There is one electronics giant, one dominant bookstore chain, one airline that can be called truly national.

And of course, there's one cinema chain to rule them all — Cineplex, which devoured rival Famous Players in 2005.

Defenders of these companies often say economics created this situation: Canada can’t support more than one or two retailers in these industries, they argue. But consumers often suspect they’re paying too much in these situations, and unusually inexpensive seats at one Cineplex cinema may be the proof.

On the left: Prices at Cineplex's Westmount Cinemas in London, Ont. On the right: Prices at Cineplex's Yonge-Dundas Cinemas in Toronto.

Tech reporter and blogger Peter Nowak first noticed a Cineplex location in London, Ont., where the price for VIP tickets is a mere $11.99 a seat — about half of what you’d pay at other Cineplex locations.

For those not in the know, Cineplex's VIP rooms are adult-only affairs featuring larger seats and alcohol service, among other things.

So why is the VIP room in London so much cheaper than other ones? In London, Nowak writes, Cineplex has real competition.

The city “is one of the few in Canada where Cineplex has overlap with Landmark Cinemas,” Nowak notes. Calgary-based Landmark has been expanding, recently swallowing up many of the locations once owned by Empire in Ontario. With 46 theatres, it’s now the number-two cinema chain in Canada.

But it’s still small compared to Cineplex, which controls nearly 80 per cent of the revenue from movie ticket sales in Canada.

"It undermines the whole value of what they’re doing."

— Landmark CEO Bill Walker

Asked why London’s Westmount theatre has lower prices than seen at other cinemas, Cineplex was vague.

“We’ve been reviewing our pricing strategy using a third-party pricing consultant over the past year,” a spokeswoman said in an email to The Huffington Post Canada. “We have already implemented some of their changes and will be testing other recommendations in the weeks and months ahead.”

The chain has never applied the same pricing to its locations, she added. It depends on location, rent, wages, taxes and other factors.

But Landmark cinemas is clearly trying to eat into Cineplex’s position. The company has begun competing with Cineplex’s VIP seating by installing reclining chairs at its regularly-priced screens.

“It undermines the whole value of what they’re doing,” Landmark CEO Bill Walker said, as quoted by Nowak.

A screenshot from a promotional video showcasing moving theatre seats and other features in Cineplex's new 4DX experience. (Screenshot via Cineplex)

Cineplex announced on Tuesday a new way it plans to compete for moviegoers: a new 4DX auditorium featuring 4D technology, starting this summer. The new theatre replaces traditional seats with motion chairs, and adds other devices to recreate environmental effects, like wind, snow and bubbles.

It's the latest cutting-edge technology being adopted by Hollywood in hopes of keeping moviegoers buying tickets — but the experience comes at a richer price. While Cineplex hasn't decided how much it will charge customers, it says 4DX will be the most expensive ticket, which means it will run upwards of $24.

The company plans to open its first redesigned 4DX theatre at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas and VIP in downtown Toronto.

With a file from The Canadian Press

Also on HuffPost:

Photo gallery What Your Movie Theater Order Says About You See Gallery