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PVR Cinemas employees wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits sanitize a cinema hall
PVR Cinemas employees wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits sanitize a cinema hall

Movie theatres hope for September reopening; prepare with discounts

  • First among the strategies to woo audiences back to theatres will be discounts ranging between 15% and 20%
  • Multiplexes are to lay out offers such as movie tickets free of cost to frontline covid workers and also one free ticket on the next visit for someone who buys two tickets, among other things

India’s film theatre business is hoping for some good news in the guidelines to be announced as part of the government’s next unlocking strategy to be announced at the end of August. Given that most other businesses have opened up and cinema owners have continually highlighted safety and hygiene measures they are taking, it is time, they say, their demands were met.

First among the strategies to woo audiences back to theatres will be discounts ranging between 15% and 20%.

“We have a number of things planned for the initial weeks," said PV Sunil, managing director at Carnival Cinemas. Starting with movie tickets being completely free for frontline workers such as medical and police personnel, Carnival will be offering one free ticket on the next visit for someone who buys two. The multiplex chain has been offering cash backs and coupons for tickets and food and beverage even during the lockdown, which people can avail when they go to the cinemas. According to a Zee News report, Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas also said the chain will offer promotional discounts for the first two to four weeks after reopening.

“We also have schemes in mind for categories such as children and senior citizens, but that will depend on government guidelines on the age groups that may be restricted from coming to cinemas. However, we do anticipate that these groups will take time to come back," Sunil added.

The move to offer discounts comes on the back of AMC Theatres, the biggest multiplex chain in the US, announcing its reopening with retro ticket pricing of 15 cents per movie for one day. The chain touted the reopening as “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices".

“That is just a dumb publicity stunt to grab eyeballs and cinema cannot work on that principle. You can’t make a joke of ticket prices," Bihar-based independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan said. “The truth is people are ready to pay any price if the content works for them."

Chauhan, however, added that given the absence of fresh content for theatre owners in India even if cinemas were to reopen in September, it is in the best interest of exhibitors to take a hit on profits and incentivize people to come back any way they can. That, of course, has to start with making them feel safe through posters and videos on precautions being taken for contactless transactions, regular sanitization, skill training for staff and then going on to some reduction in ticket prices.

“Given the expenditure on health and safety protocols and that we will witness barely 30-40% occupancy to begin with, it will allow us to only break even in the initial weeks. But we are a community dependent business and safety of our people comes first, and profits later," Chauhan said.

Exhibitors across national multiplex chains and small-town single screens say the business that has already been devastated in these five months will find it increasingly tough to bounce back if permits to reopen do not come through in September.

“At this point, we’re hoping to reach full capacity only by Diwali in time for Sooryavanshi so that we can come back to normal pricing," Chauhan said.

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