Theatre owners mull raising ticket prices

Following Centre’s move, those running cinema halls are staring at steep losses

The Centre’s letter, asking the State government not to dilute the Disaster Management Act by allowing cinema halls to operate at full seating capacity from January 10, has come as a rude shock to the film industry that was pinning its hopes on actor Vijay’s much-awaited Master to rekindle business in Tamil Nadu.

However, in light of pandemic-related concerns taking centre stage, they have proposed raising ticket prices.

Actor Vijay had reportedly met Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami to urge him to allow theatres to screen movies with 100% seating capacity.

Much-awaited release

Mr. Vijay’s latest action film, rumoured to have been produced at well over ₹100 crore, has been widely anticipated for almost a year, and theatre owners and producers were eager to see if fans and families would return to the theatres in good numbers.

But the new lockdown, in international Tamil movie markets such as England, and the rising cases in the United States and Europe, coupled with the State government’s decision being questioned by the Centre has left investors staring at a steep economic loss.

Tiruppur Subramanian, president, Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners’ Association, said the ball was now in the State’s court. “We will wait for the State government’s decision tomorrow. The producer will also take a call based on what the decision is,” he said.

Stakeholders in the film business said the producer of such a big budget film would not be able to recoup his money if theatres are allowed to operate only at 50% capacity.

However, theatre owners that The Hindu spoke to said that a few had reportedly advised producer Lalit Kumar to request the State government to issue a special government order, allowing theatres to charge special rates, until restrictions on seating capacity are removed eventually.

“We have told the producer to seek a G.O. that will allow us to double the rate of tickets or fix special prices while operating movie halls at 50% seating capacity. This will resolve the issue of economic loss for the producer even if a film releases at just 50% seating capacity,” the owner of a well-known multiplex in the city said.

A well-known producer said the film’s producer was left with few choices.

“They can wait for a few more months until vaccines become available for COVID-19 or they can sell the film to an OTT platform. But a simultaneous release on an OTT platform and in theatres is out of the question,” he said.

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