R. Balki’s Chup: The Revenge of the Artist, which released last week on September 23, had sold more than 63,000 tickets by the evening of September 21, shooting past the advance ticket sales of Jug Jugg Jeeyo (57,000) and Gangubai Kathiawadi (56,000 tickets). According to Bollywood Hungama, Chup, with an estimated budget of Rs 10 crore, made Rs 3.06 crore on its opening day. A day later, the collections saw a decline, with the movie earning Rs 2.07 crore on day two, and Rs 2.25 crore on day three. At the end of its opening weekend, Chup had earned Rs 7.38 crore.
The enthusiasm for Chup on its opening day coincided with the Multiplex Association of India (MAI)’s decision to celebrate National Cinema Day by reducing the price of tickets. In Mumbai, tickets at a number of multiplex theatres were available at Rs. 75. Usually, they cost upwards of Rs 190. MAI did not respond to our interview requests, but its press release declared National Cinema Day a success. “MAI is happy to confirm that a record number of 6.5+ million (estimated) moviegoers visited their local cinema yesterday. The shows started at as early as 6:00am due to unprecedented demand and cinema operators reported housefull shows throughout the day,” said the release.
The higher footfalls led to National Cinema Day turning into National Cinema Week. Even though this week’s release, Vikram Vedha, hits theatres a day after the celebrations end, producers Reliance Entertainment have decided less is more. According to a statement released earlier this week, they’ve “opted for an affordable pricing strategy, hoping to make Vikram Vedha a budget friendly movie watching experience for the masses.” The statement didn’t specify the pricing but said it would be “more affordable than that of Blockbuster films released post pandemic.” Advance bookings for Vikram Vedha are available for tickets priced as low as Rs 100.
As a crowd-pulling strategy, the lowered prices seem to have brought the audience back to big screens. On Tuesday, Vikram Vedha had sold more than 13,500 tickets in three national multiplex chains, according to Pinkvilla. Since the film’s promotional material has got an enthusiastic response — this is Hrithik Roshan’s first release since War (2019) — trade analysts expect the advance bookings to pick up over the next few days.
The audience response to lowered ticket prices has raised questions about whether or not there needs to be a revision of ticket prices at multiplexes. National Cinema Day was initially set to be celebrated on September 16 but was postponed to September 23 following the success of Brahmastra Part One: Shiva (2022). With the film breaking Bollywood’s dry-run at the box office, cinema hall owners requested that ticket prices not be reduced for an extra week. Consequently, National Cinema Day was “re-started” on September 23 and it was announced that the lowered prices would continue till September 29. Although not as low as the original price of Rs 75, tickets were lower than the regular rate. Puneet Gupta, AVP - Corporate Communications, Inox Leisure Limited, said, “The tickets for normal seats in all Inox multiplexes will be available for flat Rs. 112 from Monday to Thursday.”
Vishal Sawhney, Director & CEO, Carnival Cinemas, said, “For us, National Cinema Day was a rousing success! To celebrate, all Carnival Cinemas multiplexes across India will offer tickets, ranging from Rs. 75 to Rs. 100, from Monday, September 26, 2022, to Thursday, September 29, 2022.”
One stumbling block when it comes to pricing of tickets is over the revenue share between film producers and exhibitors. Prior to the pandemic, revenue was shared equally between two parties, but when cinemas reopened, top studios reportedly asked for a 60% share in the initial weeks. Speaking to Mint in November 2021, joint managing director of PVR Ltd, Sanjeev Kumar Bijli said, “We are cognizant of the fact that we are restarting the machinery after a year-and-a-half, and it will take some time for the bits and pieces to be oiled up to ensure smooth business. The idea is to find a sweet spot that is a win-win for both producers and theatre owners."
Speaking to Hindustan Times about the recent experiment with lower ticket pricing, exhibitor Akshaye Rathi said, “A lot of people in the business only focus on earning money than having people in the cinemas. But some of the greatest businesses in the country have only focused on that one figure: 1.5 billion. I hope the movie going business can go back to being more accessible. We won’t just have higher ticket sales, but also food and beverage sales, revenues from cinema advertising, parking... we should be a volume targeting sector.”