Home / Industry / Media /  Theatre chains mull cheaper tickets to draw viewers

NEW DELHI, BOXOFFICE : Theatre owners, producers and distributors are trying to tempt more viewers with cheaper tickets, in the wake of repeated box-office failures that scalded the industry this year. The rethink follows the success with pricing tickets at 75 on National Cinema Day last month, that attracted 6.5 million to movie halls.

Cinema tickets now cost 350-450 or even higher, depending on the property and show timing, which film trade analysts said is steep for an average consumer.

On the agenda is variable pricing for small and mid-budget films, including for evening and night shows as well as weekends preferred by young professionals. The move should work for the mid-scale Hindi films releasing in the coming months. Food and beverage rates too are expected to see revisions, after consumer complaints around expensive food options at cinemas.

After films like Brahmastra and Chup: Revenge of the Artist selling tickets for 100 all of last week as an experiment, Ajay Devgn’s Drishyam 2 scheduled for November has offered a 50% discount for opening day tickets booked on 2 October. Meanwhile, Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Goodbye releasing this Friday is offering tickets for 150 on opening day.

“We will take some time and analyse whether the frequency of audiences coming to theatres actually increases if ticket prices are reduced. While this isn’t feasible for big-budget films that will be unable to recover their investment if ticket rates are too low, the smaller scale films lined up for October can definitely benefit from lowered prices," said Rajendar Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at INOX Leisure Ltd that operates nearly 700 screens.

While a ticket priced at 75 may not be a long-term solution, exhibitors, distributors and producers could come up with a sweet spot in terms of pricing, Jyala said.

Vishal Sawhney, director and CEO, Carnival Cinemas said the company witnessed 70% occupancy on National Cinema Day. Sales were higher in north and central India for the chain that operates 450 screens.

“We will be extending our reduced pricing at Carnival Cinemas multiplexes across India for select movies in the coming week. By keeping our prices low, we hope that more people will be encouraged to come out and enjoy films. Affordable ticket prices will enable a wider audience to access to our services and help us get the potential customers," Sawhney added.

PVR declined to answer Mint’s queries, while Cinepolis did not respond.

The 75 ticket experient was a big learning for theatre owners who reported occupancies of as high as 90% in some locations, said film producer and distributor Sunny Khanna.

“A dual ticketing strategy where the same property can run both premium and low-priced shows at the same time could benefit theatre owners. You can’t expect young, working class viewers to go for a morning show just because it’s cheap," Khanna said.

On National Cinema Day, superhero flick Brahmastra made 8.50 crore. The Ranbir Kapoor-starrer clocked in almost 1.4 million admissions, only 20-25% below its first-day admissions, according to trade website Box Office India. Even smaller scale films like Chup and Dhokha- Round D Corner managed 3.06 crore and 1.25 crore respectively on National Cinema Day which was also their first day of release.

However, cheaper tickets come with their own challenges. Not only will the big-ticket films find it hard to recover costs, multiplex chains too have to pay high mall rentals.Declining to be named, a trade analyst said that multiplex chains have been in the red owing to pandemic-induced losses for the last two years. “That’s why rates were hiked disproportionately in the first place. But with OTT posing serious competition for less than Rs. 1,000 a year in many cases, they need to realise the habit of theatre-going needs to be revived and sustained," the person 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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