2018 saw a new trend in Sandalwood; hiked ticket prices. Good or bad? Vedanth analyses.
2018 has been a mixed year for Sandalwood when it comes to films’ success rate. There were controversies galore too. From the #MeToo movement controversy to the Vishnuvardhan Memorial construction controversy, for Sandalwood, 2018 has been a year of controversies, all of which have left their mark on Sandalwood. However, one controversy which may affect Sandalwood in a big way is the ticket rate hike.
The controversy started when Prem, the Director of ‘The Villain’ announced that his film will have hiked ticket rates across Karnataka during the first week of its release. The film which released in October had ticket rates almost doubled at single screens across Bengaluru. Single screens like Veerabadreshwar and Prasanna had balcony prices hiked to Rs: 200 from Rs: 100 for the first week. Similarly, the ticket price was hiked to nearly Rs: 400 at the Cauvery theatre in Bengaluru. However, whether it was due to the hike in ticket rates or due to the film’s quality itself, there was a poor response, and the ticket prices were reverted to Rs: 200 from Monday of the following week itself.
The hiked ticket rates did not affect the audience size initially and the film fell in the safe zone of box office performance. It did reasonably well in most of the screens at which it was screened. However, there was a big fall in the second-week collections, even as ticket rates came down and the film received mixed reviews.
Another magnum opus, KGF which released this month followed the same trend. It is breaking all records and is doing great business.
The business generated by these two film’s performance at the box office gives rise to the conclusion that audiences do not mind paying huge bucks to watch a film, provided it is worth it. The question is, does it affect a film’s business in the long run? Karnataka Today spoke to a few people from different sectors of the industry to get their point of view:
Distributors: Giri, a manager of a popular distribution house said, "This is a business trick used. This may work or may back fire. This is a new trend in Kannada films but is being followed in Bollywood for years. Especially when it is a festive release, the ticket rates are hiked. Due to piracy and other factors, the shelf life of films in theatres is very much reduced. The only way they can earn big there is in the initial weeks. Therefore they hike ticket prices of big star films. In Kannada film industry, this was started recently. I feel it is a good trend as maximum collections can be done in first weekend. However, this will not be applicable for all big star films. This is possible only if the film has already generated enough hype and curiosity is rife. It is only then that an audience will pay up. The Villain and KGF had generated a lot of hype and curiosity and they were therefore successful in getting audiences to the theatre in the first week despite the hiked ticket prices."
“However hiked ticket prices can also backfire. It happened in a small way with the ‘The Villain’. After a record-breaking first week, the ticket rates were brought down at all single screens in Karnataka. As the film also got mixed reviews, audiences reduced and box office collections dipped. Luckily the film had recovered its budget by this time. But we have seen films from other film industries suffering due to this. Hiked ticked rates cause greater disappointment if the film does not live up to its hype and the film is then bad mouthed which results in its failure. Luckily for KGF, the craze of the film was backed by great content which resulted in film earning such huge revenue."
Exhibitors: Andrew, a manager of a popular single screen in Bengaluru said, "We are forced by distributors to raise the ticket price for some films. It does affect us some times. As ticket prices are hiked, audiences prefer to watch the same film at multiplexes which have better features than us. This shows in our footfalls. Fewer footfalls mean less revenue from our canteen operations too! However, the main issue here is content. If the content does not match the hype, we decrease the ticket prices or replace the film within two days. As for Kannada films, I feel this is a good trend, as people will pay for a big star entertainer.
Audiences: Audience views on hiked ticket prices present a mixed bag. While some feel they are fine to do with this, some feel this a very bad trend. Sunil, a film buff said, "This is a good trend from the business point of view. For those who say that they will not watch a film if ticket rates are hiked is wrong. They will not watch the film, even if the ticket rates are less. For a film like The Villain and KGF, I do not think people will mind paying double. We have seen people paying even Rs: 1000 for a ticket to watch films like Bahubali 2.0. I do not think people mind paying so much if the craze is worth it. Of course, if the film does not live up to expectation, the ticket prices will come down the very next day or the film will disappear from screens. When people are ready to spend 500 on popcorn while watching a film, I do not think they mind paying more for tickets. However, at the end of the day, the content should be great. For those, who cannot afford to pay more, they can watch the film in the second or third week, when ticket prices are less."
Rakshitha, a college student however disagrees. She explained, "This is a very wrong move and it shows the double standard of the industry. A few years back, when minimum ticket pricing was announced, the whole industry supported it. Now, how can they support this? At the end of the day, they are boring holes in the shallow pockets of the audience and if they look at the effect in the long run, it will affect them as well. There will be a huge drop in collections in succeeding weeks, which will affect the lifecycle collections of the film. Instead of this people will prefer to watch films on streaming platforms or on TV. The same is happening in Bollywood; the footfalls have drastically come down and people prefer to watch the films in the comfort of their homes on big screen TV’s."
The effect of GST and Multiplex business models: The main reason for a hike in ticket prices is said to be GST and multiplexes revenue sharing model. C R Manohar, who produced, “The Villain” had revealed during the success meet that, "GST is playing a big role. We are paying 28 percent in taxes, which was not the case three years back. We are seeing a big fall in the distributor share, which we get after the final run. The only way a big budget film can cope up with this is increasing ticket price. As you know, multiplexes give us a percentage of the amount collected at the ticket window. When ticket prices are hiked, we get more revenue from multiplexes. But one thing to remember is that we do not want to hurt our audiences. Only if the budgets are too high, we raise the ticket price."
Final Word: Content is King. There is no doubt about it. People will double, even triple if a film lives up to its hype. There may come a day when regulations are put in place to cap ticket prices; until then it's a free for all. But at the end of the day, it is the audience which will dictate the price. If they stop coming to theatres, there will be no option other than to decrease the ticket prices. Time and audiences will show the way in 2019.
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