Diwali and discounts fail to draw viewers

Ajay Devgn’s ‘Drishyam 2’ opens on November 18, but the advance booking has already commenced and for those who booked opening-day tickets on October 24 and 25 were offered a discount of 25 percent!

Does it make business sense to lure viewers to book tickets for a film due three weeks later on the day when they have two new releases in the cinemas – ‘Ram Setu’ and ‘Thank God’, both fresh Diwali offerings. If cinemas are not drawing footfalls for new films, can one expect viewers for a forthcoming film?

Cinema viewing is being marketed like most consumer products. Buy one, get one free. Weekly discounted ticket days, flat Rs 400 weekdays, and so on. The cinemas were gradually losing their ground. The footfalls were thinning. But the admission rates remained high, unaffordable and impractical.

It seems the multiplexes were under the wrong impression that films pulled crowds and succeeded because of the attraction of their property and not the film they screened. These cinemas may be run by some marketing genius, but they could have done well to study and research the exhibition trade as it was practised in India. The cinemas sustained because of films and once the multiplexes came, they were starved of films and started perishing.

There were cinemas in Mumbai such as Roxy, Opera House, Swastik and Imperial that offered no luxury and no food courts. But these cinemas had a reputation of sustaining a film for silver and golden jubilees.

There were times when filmmakers such as Manoj Kumar and Shakti Samanta and distributors like Shankar BC waited for weeks to release their film at one of these cinemas while the film running there completed its run.  These multiplexes were compelled to screen films such as ‘Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari’ on the maker’s terms to get footfalls. Now that these cinemas are facing tough times, various schemes are being introduced to lure viewers.

Through their own experiments, the cinemas have proved that if the admission rates are affordable, viewers will come to watch even a 40-year-old ‘ET’ and 47-year-old Bachchan film, ‘Deewaar’. At the prevailing rates, they don’t even venture out to see a new film.

It made sense that all the single-screen cinemas in India accommodated almost 70 per cent of its viewers in the stalls, which had varied rate slabs, and the few who came with families and could afford it in the balcony class. That was a fair division considering the buying power of film lovers. A cinema had a seat for all.

Cinemas had a great run when Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan continued to deliver hits, drawing the crowds. Now they don’t. Exhibitors lost the plot somewhere along the line. More so after the Covid-19 lockdown. OTT platforms replaced cinema entertainment. At the same time, the actors were gradually losing their following by indulging in things they should not. Social media has also been spelling doom for a lot many stars.

Otherwise, what explains that despite Diwali holidays and the popular interest in Lord Ram and Ayodhya for both reasons of faith and the debates surrounding the two topics, ‘Ram Setu’ could not bring in the audience and still needs to give out inflated figures? (IANS)

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