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Pricey tickets are not really a deal-breaker for Indian movie lovers, the success of several tent-pole films with premium pricing shows, despite recent criticism that such pricing has eroded footfalls at cinemas.

Appeal and buzz for so-called event films—big-ticket films that are eagerly awaited by audiences—such as Pathaan and Brahmastra remained unaffected, a recent report by media consulting firm Ormax said, despite tickets costing 350 and above even at mid-sized cinemas. In the case of mid-range films, a minimal increase in ticket prices reduces footfalls by 10%, and with further raises, there’s further reduction, the report said, proving the studio theory that premium pricing works initially for high-budget, eagerly awaited titles.

According to Ormax, ticket prices for movies cannot follow a one-size-fits-all approach. “It is evident that what may be too ‘high’ for a mid-range film may not be high at all for a big-ticket entertainer like Pathaan," the report said, adding that the appeal for an event film at a ticket price of 375 is the same as that for a regular film at 50. A mid-range film loses maximum demand from 50 to 100 but is largely static on appeal, dropping by an odd point here and there on the way from 100 to 400. The loss of demand, when the ticket price becomes double-digit, is the section of about 10% of audiences, who would rather skip such films unless they can be watched at throwaway prices, the report added.

“There is a category of blockbuster films that studios and exhibitors decide to price higher with mutual consent, based on how it has been tracking before release and the buzz that promotions have created," said Rajendar Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at Inox Leisure Ltd. Jyala named southern period dramas RRR and KGF: Chapter 2, Hindi films Pathaan and Brahmastra and Hollywood hits such as Avatar - The Way of Water and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness airs examples of films where higher pricing has paid off over the past few months.

Multiplex chains also practise differential pricing based on the cinema property, paying ability of the population, day and show timing, and the scale of the film, he said.

“In the case of really big films like Pathaan, we cannot afford regular pricing since the film would not be able to recover its investment," Jyala pointed out.

Producers are conscious of the short run that most movies have in cinemas and want to make the best of the time, film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. “That is the reason they look at going all-out with premium pricing right up front," Johar said. He added that other than mainstream commercial entertainers, even niche films like American psychological drama The Whale or other critically acclaimed foreign films with limited releases in metros in the country can benefit from premium pricing, given that there is a small but loyal audience base for them.

Agreeing that content has to primarily find draw, Inox’s Jyala said there is no question of high pricing without thought. “For certain films, even if tickets are priced at 100 or less, audiences may not come in," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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