I love the Cleveland Film Fest. Every March dozens of excellent films are shown during a ten day period in downtown Cleveland. It's also a bit expensive for those of us on a budget. Non-members pay $12 per film this year - that's a 33% premium over the regular ticket price at a Cleveland Cinemas theater, and film fest organizers are always quick to remind everyone that, even at $12, tickets are heavily subsidized by the corporate sponsors.

(from Flickr user Jess J)

But hey, don't worry, at least you won't have to pay to park your car at Tower City, where all-day parking can cost up to 12 dollars during the week and 6 bucks on the weekend. If you're attending the film fest, it's free. They think it's so important that they even put it in all caps on the website - FREE PARKING.

Except that it isn't actually free. Somebody is paying. We're all paying, by forking over $12 for a movie ticket instead of less. The corporate sponsors are paying. If you've ever been to a film fest and seen how many people attend, you know that all those validated parking tickets add up pretty quickly.

If you ride a bike to the film fest or you live downtown and walk, good for you, but don't expect much more than a pat on the back. If you have a monthly RTA pass, you get a $2 discount on in-person ticket purchases. But not if you have a 7-day pass, or a daily pass. In fact, it's really not much of a discount at all since there are so many promo codes floating around for $2 off online purchases that anyone can use.

Now, I understand the argument that Tower City Cinemas normally needs to subsidize parking because competition from suburban multiplexes with oceans of free parking is just to great. But the film fest is different. It's unique. There is no competition from the corporate suburban theaters. Many of the films sell-out in advance and every seat goes filled. It's tough to argue that there is a shortage of people who want to attend, and that subsidized parking is such an utter necessity.


    On March 15, 2010 LKBM said...

    Offering free parking makes the cost of attending more transparent. Hidden costs anger people more than higher prices do, even if it's less fair and ultimately more expensive.

    A better solution would probably be to make a 'No parking' discount ticket. (It'll make people happier than a higher-priced 'Parking Included' ticket.)


    It's tough to argue that there is a shortage of people who want to attend, and that subsidized parking is such an utter necessity.

    You know there's no shortage of people when "free" parking is offered, but you don't actually know what the situation would be if you didn't have it. Who's going to risk complete failure of the event?

    I like the idea of discount movie tickets for people who don't drive, but that would be a hassle for people with more than one movie-attending person in a car. Hassle = potential "what a ripoff" situation, and that's not good.


    For the record, my understanding is that Forest City Enterprises "donates" the free parking because they own the Tower City garage. Given the reputation of Forest City, I wonder how significant the tax benefit of that "donation" is to their bottom line.

    LKBM and BP, I agree that the framing should be as a "discount" for non-drivers, but the logistical challenge is: how do you prove that you didn't drive?