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The Wall Street Journal reports today that several theaters in Manhattan are charging moviegoers $20 per adult ticket to see Shrek Forever After in 3-D. The jury is still out on whether 3-D is the way of film’s future or just another gimmick (Armond White has much to say on the subject in the June / July issue of First Things ), but whatever it is, the price is an eye-opener as well as a pocket-book emptier.

There was a time when a ticket to Radio City Music Hall could be had for (if I recall correctly) $1.35 if it was purchased before 10:30 a.m., for admission to the first show on a weekday morning. There were no free 3-D glasses, but that price got you not only a movie but also a stage show that included live music from Radio City’s own symphony orchestra, organ selections played on the Mighty Wurlitzer, and, of course, the Rockettes. And, no, that wasn’t in 1932; it was in the mid-1960s. A particular favorite from that era was a Fourth of July show that featured a salute to the U.S. Marines. The Rockettes did a bit of close-order drill in abbreviated dress blues to the strains of the Marines’ Hymn, after which the orchestra rose to stage level from the pit and played Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” with occasional help from a couple of howitzers on the stage. Finally, after a spotlighted turn by the man at the Mighty Wurlitzer, came the movie: How to Steal a Million , starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.

Can Shrek Forever After , even in 3-D, compare with that? I think not. Maybe I’ll stick with the Metropolitan Opera, where you can still buy a seat for five hours’ worth of Wagner for $25—and standing room for $20.

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