Showtime! Will it be costlier cinemas or cheaper OTTs? | Mint

Showtime! Will it be costlier cinemas or cheaper OTTs?

Going to the movies has become an expensive affair, especially at multiplexes in the major metros. (Mint)
Going to the movies has become an expensive affair, especially at multiplexes in the major metros. (Mint)


The cost of a single ticket in the metro can pay for your OTT subscription for an entire year

Cristopher Nolan’s much-awaited film Oppenheimer is slated to hit the silver screens this Friday, 21 July. That begs the question, where would you like to watch it? The PVR Director’s Cut in Delhi-NCR charges 2,000 for the Saturday evening show. Mind you, that’s the price for a single ticket. At INOX: Insignia located in Mumbai’s Atria Mall, it costs 2,100. Most other PVR, INOX theatres in both these metros have priced their tickets at 400-500.

While premium seats cost you a bomb in either Delhi or Mumbai, it is just 211 in Chennai, be it for a high budget movie. Movie tickets generally cost less than 160 including GST in Tamil Nadu, where there is a cap on ticket prices unless there is a special permit for certain movies. Same is the case with Telangana, where the cap is 295 for regular tickets. Andhra Pradesh, too, has an upper ceiling of 177 for regular tickets, while the tickets are generally cheaper in Kerala. In Karnataka, a government order to fix a price cap of 200 has been embroiled in a legal dispute. So, watching a movie at PVR: Directors Cut in Bengaluru would make you poorer by at least 1,500.

Going to the movies has become an expensive affair, especially at multiplexes in the major metros. Data from brokerage ICICI Securities shows the average ticket price at PVR-Inox for premium and regular screens is 535.7 (see graphic) and 199.7, respectively. Add to it the cost of food and beverages along with travel, and it can set you back by 1,000 per person. So, a family of four would have to shell out 4,000 for just one movie outing. Compare this with over-the-top (OTT) offerings. The annual subscription for Amazon Prime or Disney-Hotstar is just 1,499, the price of a single movie ticket in Delhi or Mumbai. So, would you rather go to the theatres or stream your favourite content at home?


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Mint spoke to many film enthusiasts about their choice.

From theatres to OTT

Abhishek Jajani, 30, is a quintessential movie buff who claims to watch at least 100 movies in a year. “Earlier I would go to just about any theatre and the timings, too, did not matter. It is different now that I am working and married. I spend about 1,500 each time I take my wife to the movies," Jajani, a resident of Siliguri, says. Sometimes he uses his ICICI Bank credit card for a ‘buy one, get one’ ticket from BookMyShow.

Jajani says that his movie outings are less frequent now and he relies more on OTT subscriptions. “I watched about 110 movies in 2022 and 10 of these were in the theatres," he says. Jajani, who spends 10,000-12,000 a year on movie outings, has subscribed to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney-Hotstar. He even tried Sony Liv for a while bud did not like its interface. What he likes about OTTs is the variety of content and access to classics from the 50s and 60s. Moreover, some movies deserve to be watched twice, thrice or even more number of times. “I’ll be watching Oppenheimer in a theatre, but I know I’ll watch it over and over once it is made available on OTT ," he says.

Jajani, however, has decided to restrict his theatre experience to just a few select movies. Last year, he watched 10 movies in the theatres and it could very well be lesser this year.

K.R. Raaghav’s, 38, is an aficionado as well, though he spends less than 5,000 on about six movies at the theatres in a year. It’s comparatively cheaper, thanks to the fixed ticket prices in Chennai. “Earlier, I would watch more than 10-12 movies in a year but I have cut back on it due to my work schedule," he says.

Raghav has subscribed to only one OTT platform—Amazon Prime— and mostly watches Tamil movies with his family. Occasionally, he goes out to watch Hollywood or Bollywood movies with friends. “I wait at least for a week before I go to watch any movie in theatres. This is unlike most Tamilians who are crazy about the ‘first day, first show’."

Would he consider subscribing to any other OTT platform? “I am planning to get a Netflix subscription. Recently, I missed watching Por Thozhil. If I only have Prime, I won’t be able to watch it at all. I would like to subscribe, albeit for a short time, to the OTT platform where it is available."

Reluctant OTT-users

Last week, Firoz Ahmed, 29, went to watch Satyaprem Ki Katha with a friend. They ended up shelling out 3,000 on tickets and food. “The movie tickets alone cost us 800, and we spent 1,200 on popcorn and the rest on beverages. You can get three decent yearly OTT subscriptions for that amount," he says.

Ahmed has subscribed to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar and YouTube Premium, but is closely tracking Jio Cinema which he thinks will innovate the world of OTT.

“For me, going to the movies is about how much leisure time I have or if a much-hyped Hindi or Hollywood movie is releasing. I watch at least 10 such movies in a year. I don’t wait for them to drop on OTTs," says Ahmed, a resident of Mumbai.

Ahmed spends 20,000-30,000 every year on watching movies in theatres, but believes that OTTs make better sense for him. Though, when it comes to OTTs, there is no clarity on what to watch despite the truckload of content. “You’ll easily spend 20-30 minutes deciding on what to watch. That is where I want to see the change which I believe Jio Cinema will bring in with its weekly releases."

Ahmed is waiting for the day the OTT space sees consolidation. “It is hard to produce OTT-specific content. The content on Netflix is already turning stale. I prefer it only for documentaries. Similarly, I subscribe to Hotstar for the premier league," he says.

For Aditya Jakki, 29, theatre is a way of life and OTT is a ‘second class category’. “If a movie releases on OTT, it means it was bound to flop in theatres," says Jakki, who is currently studying in Germany.

Jakki claims he was among the few people who went to theatres between the two waves of Covid-19 when movie halls reopened. “I did have four OTT subscriptions when I was in India but I’d also go to the movies every other week," he says.

“OTT content in Telugu industry is a non-starter. They say Bollywood movies haven’t been performing well at the box office but even low-budget Telugu movies make good money simply because we go to the theatres quite frequently," he says.

OTT or theatres?

A simple cost comparison shows that OTT platforms can be lighter on your pocket. For a family of two (see graphic), the annual cost of going for five movies could be around 8,855. That amount could help you subscribe to as many as seven popular OTT platforms. Bundled offers by aggregators could bring the costs down further.

That, however, won’t make up for the experience of watching a movie on the big screen. For the unabashed cinephile though, OTTs mean maximum movies, minimum budget.

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