When the Tamil Nadu government announced the revised ticket rates for various classes of theatres in the state, movie-goers were worried at the prospect of paying over `200 for a ticket, as the government had fixed the base price for tickets in multiplexes at `150. Coupled with 28% GST (Goods and Services Tax) and 8% LBET (Local Body Entertainment Tax) on the base price, multiplexes can now charge up to `204 per ticket for Tamil films; the price of non-Tamil films will be even higher as they have to pay 15% (other Indian language films) and 20% (English films) LBET.
However, a few city multiplexes like SPI Cinemas, AGS Cinemas and Rohini Silver Screens have surprised audiences by choosing to keep their ticket rates under `200. They have made sure that the cost of a ticket, inclusive of online booking charge (which is an additional `30), doesn't exceed `200. The general reasoning behind this decision to price their tickets well within the maximum rate fixed by the government seems to be that affordable tickets will ensure an increase in footfalls, which, these exhibitors believe, is the primary way to create a movie-going culture in audiences.
Archana Kalpathi, CEO, AGS Cinemas, says that the decision to keep the ticket price at comparatively reduced cost is a customer-friendly experiment. She says, "Now that Vijay's film is having a great run at the BO, it is a little early to say whether our experiment has succeeded or not. But considering that `165 (for Tamil films) and `175 (for other language films) are affordable rates, I think it will encourage more film lovers to watch movies in our screens."
The implementation of flexible ticket pricing is something exhibitors have been mulling over for a long time. After charging `204 till Monday , Rohini Silver Screens has announced that they will be charging `160 for all films on weekdays, and `180 (Tamil films) and `190 (other language films) on weekends.
Quiz Archana about the possibility of such flexible pricing, and she says, "We are waiting for permission from the government to allow flexible pricing, which, if done, will be a boost not only to exhibitors, but also for producers of small-budget films. They can then afford to make films of varied genres and budget with actors who have different market values."
Meanwhile, Meenakshisundaram, vice-president of Mayajaal, which has chosen to go with the maximum price fixed by the government, says that a ticket price of over `200 is not new to them because they were charging `200 a few years ago when the government had allowed theatres to fix the pricing for the first two weeks of a film's release.
He says, "After the cap on ticket prices, when ticket rates were fixed at `120, we suffered a lot. We get our audience mainly on weekends, and on weekdays, we have even screened films for just five people! We couldn't meet our overheads, which kept increasing, and there was hardly any return on investment. In the first week of a big film's release, we got only 10% on a ticket's price because 30% went to the government as entertainment tax, and 60% to the distributor (55% during the second week)."
He says that the multiplex's patrons haven't complained about the increase in price. "Our audiences know why we charge higher. They come here for the ambience and the comfortable movie-watching experience that we provide. We have recently invested `50 crore to renovate our multiplex as well," he reveals and ad ds that post the hike, they have managed to get 61% occupancy for Vijay's film and 40% for the other films on Monday (a weekday).