There's a barrier that's about to be breached in the movie business, and it doesn't involve sex or violence. Some theaters around the country are dancing on the edge of charging $20 for a movie ticket.

Can you imagine? Not quite a decade ago, the $10 movie ticket was a topic of conversation. But now, with the advent of IMAX 3-D, some New York theaters had priced tickets to a recent showing of "Shrek Forever After" at $20, but then retreated from that price.

It's only a matter of time before theaters push through that ceiling. The question is, how will movie patrons respond? Will they take it in stride, or decide that it's too much and just wait and watch the movie at home, albeit without the theater experience?

Box office revenues have been up during the economic downturn. Historically, Americans tend to indulge in movies as relatively cheap entertainment when times are tough. And a string of 3-D movie hits — including "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" — have drawn significant crowds. With the economy the way it is, theater owners would be wise to apply that $20 price tag judiciously.

It wouldn't be surprising to see people get sort of picky about what they'll fork over $20 to see. If you're talking a big-budget film loaded with special effects and big name stars, a higher ticket price is an easier sell than an indie film or a documentary.

People have lots of entertainment choices these days. DVDs can be sent straight to your home in the mail, you can order a pay-per-view movie straight off your television, or you can download one onto your iPod or iPad.

As the summer movie season kicks off this weekend, movie theater owners would be wise to keep all of this in mind before crossing that psychological threshold of 20 bucks. And don't even get us started on the price of popcorn.