Box-office duds prompt theatres to cut ticket prices

Theatre owners say they will continue to offer discounts for specific films, in collaboration with producers.
Theatre owners say they will continue to offer discounts for specific films, in collaboration with producers.

Summary

  • Pricing is a double-edged sword across the industry at the moment. There is a section of high-end audiences that are ready to shell out even 800-1,000 in top metros, while there is also a need to drive mass volume in smaller markets

After testing various promotional pricing strategies for small films over the past few months, theatre owners are now revisiting their ticket pricing plans given the box office failure of recent titles.

This is particularly relevant for those lower in the value chain, operating in smaller towns, who are striving to attract audiences to upcoming non-star films that have garnered limited attention.

For example, Mukta Cinemas implemented a uniform 99 ticket price for all showings of the sports drama Maidaan, while many independent cinema owners are considering general price reductions to entice their target audience. 

Initiatives are also in the works to make low-cost cinemas equipped with basic amenities. Some theatres plan to continue offering discounts on specific films in partnership with producers.

“Pricing is an issue for a majority of the audience. They are ready to go for movies at slightly lower tariffs and that is something we as exhibitors have to be mindful of," Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas said. 

While the company is not looking at a broad reduction in prices across the board, it will look at pricing strategies continually on a film-by-film basis, Puri said. He noted that the positive response to Maidaan was driven by flat pricing, boosting attendance in the process. 

Pricing is a double-edged sword across the industry at the moment. There is a section of high-end audiences that are ready to shell out even 800-1,000 in top metros, while there is also a need to drive mass volume in terms of viewers in smaller markets.

 “These (flat pricing strategies) are calculated risks for us but one will increasingly see more such experiments," Puri added. 

Amit Sharma, managing director, Miraj Entertainment, which operates multiplex theatres agreed low pricing or one-plus-one offers for specific films are planned in collaboration with producers to drive price-sensitive crowds, especially on weekdays. 

However, multiplex operators like Sharma believe audiences consciously sign up for the experience in premium cinemas which cannot be replicated elsewhere. 

Exorbitant ticket pricing by top multiplex chains in tier-one markets cannot be the template for the rest of the country, said Bihar-based exhibitor Vishek Chauhan who believes 50-100 is the ideal price point to drive mass audiences.

Chauhan is in conversation to acquire small cinemas across the state and adopt a standard model for them—good projection, sound and air-conditioning but no premium luxury experiences or gourmet food. “Masses have no cinemas to go to anymore, theatres have been taken over by the rich," he said.

Also Read: Freemium vs premium at the cinemas: PVR borrows an app hack for its theatres

Mint had earlier reported that Common Service Centres (CSC), the physical facilities for delivering government's e-services to rural and remote locations, has tied up with a firm called October Cinemas to meet the target of opening 10,000 movie screens over the next five years. 

The latter will coordinate with village-level entrepreneurs to build movie theatres with a seating capacity of 75-150 in small towns and provide them with low-cost projectors besides acting as distributors of films. 

These theatres, developed as community centres, for other occasions such as weddings and birthdays, will sell tickets starting at  50 and will serve as spaces for family entertainment. 

Also Read: Shadows over silver screen: Plot twist at box office hits small-town theatre owners

To be sure, several film trade experts point out it is the unreasonable pricing keeping masses away from cinemas that has led to rampant piracy across the country. 

“We will have to look at revision across the board. There are anyway no big Hindi films lined up for the next few months and in case of those that have released recently, it isn’t uncommon to see viewers walking out in the middle," said Pranav Garg, managing director at Maya Palace, a two-screen cinema in Muzaffarnagar. 

Garg reduced prices for the two films released on Eid--Maidaan and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan --after seeing the lukewarm response to both and is contemplating lowering rates at least for the next few months. 

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