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EXC: Should Cinemas Make Tickets Affordable For Audiences?

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By: Navneet Mundhra | BENGALURU
Updated: September 27, 2022 18:04
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Before ‘Brahmastra’ had hit the screens on September 9, the Bollywood industry was writhing woefully in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) as films were falling like ninepins at the ticket counters. Most of the films released in 2022, arguably the worst year ever for Bollywood, opened to empty houses and were declared unmitigated turkeys on day one itself.

It seemed that the hoi polloi were completely disenchanted, even hostile, towards the kind of content Bollywood was churning out. After a protracted period, a Bollywood film – ‘Brahmastra’ –
opened to good numbers and ended the grinding drought at the box office.

But what happened on September 23, the third Friday of ‘Brahmastra’, pleasantly startled the entire industry. The entire trade and film industry decided to celebrate September 23 as ‘National Cinema Day’ and tickets across multiplex chains were sold at only ₹75. Because of this decision, people thronged cinema halls in huge numbers and the occupancies across India were reported to the tune of 80 per cent which is staggering.

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In fact, ‘Brahmastra’ on the 15th day of its release sold as many -tickets as it had on day one. Other movies such as Sunny Deol’s ‘Chup: Revenge of the Artist’ and R Madhavan’s ‘Dhokha: Round D Corner’ also recorded impressive numbers.

Apart from shoddy content, one of the biggest reasons behind people’s reluctance to visit cinema halls in recent years is spiralling ticket prices of multiplexes which have rendered it unaffordable for common people to watch movies in cinema halls with families. Consequently, even average movies started crashing unceremoniously as they became a tall order to draw people to theatres.

Now the number of tickets sold on ‘National Cinema Day’ has driven home the point that millions of people want to experience the magic of cinema on the big screen if this doesn’t hurt their budget. Of course, the content will always take precedence. The way going forward is the blend of top-shelf content and moderate pricing, something which can never fail.

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So, is the course correction in regard to ticket prices underway? The New Indian talked with multiple cinema owners to get their views on the matter:

1) Rajendra Singh Jyala (Chief Programming Officer, INOX): The response of the audience on ‘National Cinema day’ was mind-bogglingly rapturous. We at INOX are certainly tracking the numbers closely to determine a plausible pattern. As for rationalising the prices of rates, this is certainly on our minds but it cannot be implemented in a haphazard manner. We have to take various factors into account.

For example, it isn’t feasible to slash the prices of an extravagant, big-budget movie, especially in the first week as we aren’t the only stakeholders. Yes, for slight niche or small-budget movies, dynamic pricing is more reasonable. Secondly, if the ticket prices remain low on all days, will a similar number of people flock to theatres every day? Thirdly, I don’t think moderate ticket prices can salvage a poor film. If the content is crummy, people won’t come to cinema halls even if they’re offered tickets for free. We are also thinking of perhaps selling tickets for lower rates on weekdays after the first week of a movie.

These are some of the aspects we are looking into and trying to find a sweet spot. Ultimately, our aim is to compel a person to visit cinema halls more than he/she does.

2) Ashutosh Agarwal (Owner of Star World chain of cinemas): I strongly feel that the entire industry and trade must sit together to hammer out the future course of action. We will only succeed if we act in unison. See, the ‘National Cinema Day’ was a thunderous success because everyone was on board. If only one multiplex chain or few single-screen owners had slashed prices, the effect would have been minuscule.

It is abundantly clear that footfalls increase exponentially if tickets are moderately priced. In my cinema halls across Uttar Pradesh, the occupancy shot up by almost three times on ‘National Cinema Day’. Hence, we must find a way to accord incentives to people to watch movies in theatres.

For example, to draw women to theatres, we can celebrate every Wednesday as ‘Ladies Day Out’ and offer tickets to them at reduced prices. On Thursday, the ticket prices can be slashed by 40 to 50 per cent. These two days are usually the worst as far as occupancy is concerned. So through these imaginative methods, we can attract audiences. But, as I said, for these measures to succeed, all the stakeholders must come together and arrive at a common consensus.

3) Satadeep Saha (Exhibitor, West Bengal): My cinema hall sold almost 10 times more tickets than usual on ‘National Cinema Day’. This is great news for the industry. I think many producers in the future will adopt a similar strategy as everyone wants their movies to be seen by maximum people.

But such a scheme might not be feasible for every movie, especially in the first week of release. Also, theatre owners alone cannot determine ticket prices. We are dictated by the distributors and producers. All of us must sit together and find a sustainable option that is beneficial for all of us.

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