Mumbai: Multiplex firms have been steadily raising their average ticket prices (ATP) for movies while focusing on earnings from food and beverages (F&B) in order to protect revenue growth from sluggish footfalls.

ATPs at both PVR Ltd and Inox Leisure Ltd—the two largest multiplex firms—have seen an increase in the first half of the current fiscal year.

The ATP in first half of fiscal increased by 7% at PVR and by 4% at Inox. PVR’s ATP in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 stood at 186, while that for Inox stood at 162 (including Satyam Cineplexes which the company recently acquired).

Meanwhile, footfalls fell across comparable properties by 14% year-on-year at both the companies, from 30.6 million to 26.2 million for PVR and from 21.3 million to 18.3 million for Inox. Comparable properties are those which have completed at least 12 months of operations.

“We have been adding formats such as IMAX, Gold Class, etc. for discerning audiences who tend to have high discretionary income and spend. Because of the value adds, the ticket prices are higher than normal and that has also bumped up the ATP," he said, adding that lack of good quality content was one reason for the decline of footfalls.

According to Alok Tandon, chief executive at Inox Leisure, the growth in the number of blockbusters, coupled with strong growth in regional movies, has also driven up ticket prices substantially over the years.

The consolidation in the industry along with an expansion in the number of screens is also giving multiplex owners greater pricing power, say analysts.

“Both PVR and Inox are emerging as two major players in the industry with PVR as the market leader. This consolidation will further help operators in effecting price hikes," said Karan Mittal, an analyst at ICICI Securities Ltd, in a report on PVR dated 3 November.

Deepan Narayanan, an analyst at IDBI Capital, said the aggressive expansion in previous years has also helped.

“When companies launch a screen, initially they will keep prices low to bring in consumers. In the last couple of years, these companies have added new screens aggressively. With more of those screens getting matured and priced at average levels, the ATP has seen a growing trend," said Narayanan.

However, the potential for a further increase in ATP in metros is limited, said another analyst with a domestic brokerage firm, who did not want to be named.

“Whatever expansion that will happen going ahead will be in tier II and tier III cities, and average prices there are lower than the metros. So, as and when they expand in those cities ATP will slightly descend," he said.

As such, multiplex firms are pushing up revenues earned from advertising and food and beverages sold at the theatres. While net box office collection for PVR grew by just 3% year on year in the first half of fiscal year 2015, F&B revenue grew by 17% and advertising revenue grew by 14% over the same period.

According to Gianchandani of PVR, F&B has been a long-term strategy for the company and it starts right from the design stage of the multiplex, in the way outlets and displays are designed. “PVR’s prime location strategy ensures that we tend to be surrounded by an audience base of consumers which has high discretionary income and that reflects in our SPH (spend per head) numbers," said Gianchandani.

“We make sure that we constantly modify and enhance the menu and make sure that there is no menu fatigue. At Inox, we offer an average of 80-100 food items across our multiplexes," said Tandon.

Advertisement revenues are also rising. Tandon said that in the last three years, in-cinema advertising revenues have grown 100% for Inox. He expects 25-30% growth annually in this.

“Advertisement and F&B revenue are very important cogs in the overall wheel of a multiplex as we control them directly. However, we are also continuously thinking of new revenue streams so that the dependence on any one revenue stream becomes less and less," added Gianchandani.

Pooja Sarkar contributed to this story.

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