Analysis: What does the recent spurt in footfalls in multiplexes after slashing of ticket prices convey?

The unprecedented surge in ticket sales recorded by the cinema chains on the National Cinema Day have triggered discussions about the direct connection between “affordability” of the ticket prices and footfalls, resulting in higher collections at the box office.

As per early reports of box office collections of latest Hindi films, the slashing of ticket prices has contributed generously to the net collections as more than 6.5 million tickets were sold on Friday alone.

PVR, which has a daily capacity of around 700,000 tickets across shows around the country, sold a whopping 690,000 tickets, while the second largest chain, Inox Leisure, sold over 525,000 tickets of the 600,000 tickets.

However, trade experts and cinema chain executives feel that such activities could be strategic in nature at best and are not sustainable in the long term.

“It was a phenomenal success and an eye opener,” said Gautam Datta, Group CEO, PVR. “It was a great experiment, but nobody is going to recover the kind of infrastructure cost, if we keep the ticket price this low. Many brands do a 1-day or 1-week sale, which brings new consumers in hordes. For us also, this will be a once-in-a-while kind of exercise, which will celebrate cinema and the consumers.”

While ‘Brahmastra’ gained maximum advantage of the discounted pricing, even smaller films like ‘Chup’ and re-mastered version of James Cameron’s 2009 spectacle ‘Avatar’ saw some housefull shows.

According to various estimates, close to 70% of box office collections of the Hindi film ‘Chup’ was recorded on Friday itself. Till Saturday, the box office collections of ‘Chup’ were little over Rs5 crore.

Given the pronounced improvement in footfalls and increasing collections, the makers of the recently released big budget film ‘Brahmastra’ and mid-budget ‘Chup’ have introduced a special ticketing price of Rs 100 for three days ending September 29.

However, trade pundits said that content must fire first. “You can’t run a multiplex with tickets priced at Rs 50-100 tickets,” said independent film distributor and trade analyst Shaaminder Malik. “Quality content is must, until the filmmakers come up with good content, why will the audience come? Second is the rate, and the third key is the marketing of the films. A lot of films are going unnoticed because of lack of marketing.”

Benson Mathew, a film buff and banking professional who watched ‘Avatar’ on the National Cinema Day said, “Most multiplexes priced tickets at Rs 75. This is quite affordable for audiences. This dispels any kind of misgiving about why audiences are not coming to theatres. If the ticket price is affordable, audiences flock to theatres,” he said. “We have to realise a key fact. A large part of audiences who come to theatre comprises the youth. In fact, most filmmakers make films keeping them in mind. But you cannot keep ticket prices in such a range which is affordable to only mature and working adults. The unforeseen occupancy rate of 70-80% in most multiplexes is a testimony to the fact that audiences want to come to theatres to watch films even if they have been released long back. But they would come to theatres at a price point which is affordable to them.”

On the point of sustainability, Ameya Naik, founder of event management company Fantasy Films, said, “The affordable ticket price works for mid-and-small budget films. Audiences find it affordable if ticket prices are in the range of Rs 75-150. But this range may not work for big-budget films (over Rs 200 crore). To recover that kind of an investment, films will have to run at least two months in theatres, which is implausible in today’s times, given the continuous line-up of films.”

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