Many trade pundits as well as a few market players in the business entertainment have believed that the ticket prices need to be lowered in order to get back cinemas to the pre-Covid levels of footfalls. India celebrated National Cinema Day on Friday (September 23), with the tickets being priced at $0.9 each. Most cinemas reported 90% occupancy on Friday. These included early morning shows for the Hindi film Brahmastra as well as Hollywood’s Avatar that was re-released in India. The new Hindi releases – R Balki’s Chup The Revenge of An Artist and Kookie Gulati’s Dhokha Round D Corner also received a decent response despite getting a limited release.
The Multiplex Association of India claimed that more than 6.5 million footfalls were registered across 4000 screens, including those from several multiplex chains, that participated in the collective initiative. Both PVR and Inox registered 90% occupancy for the day. Carnival Cinemas witnessed a 70% occupancy on National Cinema Day.
A lot has been said, tweeted and discussed about the quality of content being churned out for the Hindi cinema as digital platforms grew over the past two and a half years. While the content is definitely the biggest factor, the MAI figures prove that ticket pricing is also a major deterrent.
Executive director of India’s iconic Maratha Mandir theatre and the G7 multiplex (Mumbai) Manoj Desai confirms similar occupancy in his theatres and adds, “We have (always) had the lowest prices, and we have proved that lowest rates means public will flock to theatres. We have been running Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge at Maratha Mandir for 27 years now, with rates as low as $0.37 per ticket. We wanted to keep the rates less, instead of having empty theatres. Even we provide facilities like stereophonic sound system and 70mm screens. I have been in the business for 50 years, and had a successful run. The multiplexes must also think about the public.”
Desai is not alone. Most single screen theatres in the country have similarly priced cinema tickets. The food and beverage cost also differs from what one gets at a multiplex.
While they have tickets at the higher end of the spectrum, multiplex owners do not believe they are over-priced. Inox Leisure CEO Alok Tandon says that Inox alone got half a million patrons on National Cinema Day across India. “After 18 bad months, we had great six months – from January to June, and now this initiative has been a shot in the arm.”
Asked about lowering ticket prices, Tandon says, “Let me tell you, we never over-price ourselves. The pricing structure works on various aspects including the property cost, the target audience as well as the newness of the cinema releasing. Even during the best quarter at Inox (Q1 of FY23), the average blended ticket price was $2.82, which means I am also selling tickets on lower prices at some places. Some places, it may be more, but nowhere is it more than $9.85. We are rightly priced.”
Carnival Cinemas director & CEO Vishal Sawhney says, “Cinema prices will always be a significant factor in multiplexes across India. Whether it’s reducing ticket costs or providing discounts on food and beverages, these changes make a big difference for the customers and business alike. For the customers, it means more affordable fun and entertainment. For businesses, it means increased traffic and potential sales. By making cinema prices more affordable, we can encourage more people to visit the movies and enjoy family time together. By keeping our prices low, we hope that more people will be encouraged to come out and enjoy films at their nearest Carnival Cinemas.”
Happy with the responses theatres got on Friday, COO Cinemas at ticketing website BookMyShow Ashish Saksena adds, “Cinephiles have taken to their favorite form of blockbuster entertainment extremely well, with post-pandemic pent-up demand and a strong affinity towards quality movie content remaining at the forefront, that has resulted in a swift revival of the theatrical format, surpassing industry expectations.”
Evidently, the response was huge because of the low ticket prices, and that is what the industry must consider while strategizing ways to rebuild the theatrical business of entertainment in India.
Producer Vashu Bhagnani, of Pooja Entertainment claims he has been advocating for low ticket prices since the early 2000s. “I had even reached out to multiplexes to give us one screen at their theatres where we can operate as a JUNTA screen, wherein the ticket prices will be much lower to attract cinema lovers from colleges , newly employed youth and all class of life. The F&B will be provided at much lower costs, so attracting audiences for a world class viewing experiences without burning a hole in their pocket. Lower ticket prices is the need of the hour and imperative to give the much needed impetus to theatres currently as well as the film industry.”
As the weekend came to a close, filmmaker Ayan Mukerji announced special ticket pricing for his new Hindi film, Brahmastra, that has been doing wonders at the box office. The tickets for the film will be priced at $1.23 for four days – from September 26 to September 29 – to mark the Indian festival of Navratri.
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