Movies, me, and the markets…

As I said in one of my earlier blogs, I am against over-protectionism, and a believer in free markets. Despite that, I fail to understand the rationale behind movie-ticket pricing in Bangalore’s multiplexes. It all started off with Hum aapke Hai kaun, a good fifteen years back. Rajashri, the producers and distributors of the movie asked the theatres to upgrade to Dolby if they wanted to screen what then went on to become one of the biggest hits. The theatre owners duly complied, and duly passed on the extra cost to the theatre-goers. Fair enough. That’s how markets work.

Cut to the present: multiplexes become the gold standard for watching a movie, at least for the middle class who cannot afford a home theatre. The prices started off with Rs 70, and in just a matter of two years have gone up to Rs 300. And I am not even talking of the Gold Class. That anyways was meant to be exclusive. And again, there are different rates depending on whether you are watching the movie on a weekday or weekend.

With Jodhaa Akbar, it has gotten even more unpredictable. There are different rates for weekdays, weekends, and the time at which you are watching the movie on those days. Soon, we may have to develop a software to know how much to pay for a movie on a particular day and time.

After all the rabble rousing, what exactly is my grouse? I have watched movies in Noida, Hyderabad, Chennai, and Mumbai, the most happening places mall-wise excluding Gurgaon. Nowhere do I see such differential pricing except in Bangalore. The same PVR that prices its tickets at Rs 300 in Bangalore prices it at Rs 70 – Rs 90 in Delhi, and at a different rate in Chennai. In Chennai, I know the Government calls the shots, but in Delhi, I have heard of no such control mechanism. So, why does the Bangalorean have to pay more? Our previous government was so busy making money and trying to protect its chairs that it is not a surprise they even thought of asking this question on behalf of the common man. And now, with no Government, there is no one left to ask except people like us who are so ridiculously addicted to the silver screen, who spend our hard earned money to make those rich people on screen richer by another few crores. Worse, all the cheaper theatres are closing down one by one so that you are at the mercy of the PVRs and Inoxes for your weekly dose of entertainment.

When the movie-goer in other parts of India pays a much lesser price than the one in Bangalore for the same movie-going experience to the same people who put it up on the screens, the logic of free markets fails me. Maybe I will just watch Jodhaa Akbar after a fortnight; maybe I will watch it on a weekday on a hot afternoon; maybe I will just download a pirated copy off the internet and watch it at home and cock a snook at the multiplex guys…after all, it is not only the markets that have a choice.

16 Comments so far

  1. bornarchitect (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 3:40 am

    Very informative piece.With all the controversy clouding Jodhaa Akbar, it is very difficult to say if it will do well at the box office. With Rs. 600 million spent, it may have to bear heavy losses. I read another piece online on Helloji- and would like to share it with you.

    Enjoy! And lets wait to see what will be the fate of Jodhaa- Akbar!

  2. Venkata (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 5:17 am

    You raised a very important point. I stopped going to movies in Bangalore. the theaters are expensive and total outgo for one movie with family will be Rs 1200-1500. So whenever i go to vacation to our hometown in Andhra we watch 2-3 movies at a stretch . the total comes to Rs 200. Also we entertain ourselves by renting pirated CD’s. The movie industry does not leave us a choice. do they?

  3. randramble (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 8:22 am

    While the grievance is valid, piracy is not the answer. If piracy continues unabated, there will be no movies ultimately.

  4. Dheeraj (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 8:24 am

    In Bangalore, the movies are so expensive because of:
    1. The Kannada movie producers have ensured that the number of non-kannada movies running isn’t too many
    2. And because *PVR & INOX suck*. I still think REX is much better, can’t wait for Symphony to reopen. These theaters don’t try to screw you over.

    Apart from that, i think you should check on your numbers. I know it is more expensive to watch a movie in Mumbai, I paid Rs 300 to watch a movie on its second week, and I’ve heard it costs even more in the first week. The trend started outside Bangalore and it has moved here….. what a shame.

  5. AggieRag (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 8:30 am

    Good points Preran & Venkata. This is exactly why I can’t understand why the film industry (be it hollywood, bollywood, sandalwood or any other wood) keeps cribbing about how no one goes to the cinemas anymore and how much that is hitting them where they live. Get real folks!!! If you price yourself off the market, then expect to be beaten by the piracy underground. No one wants to shell out 300 bucks for a movie which I can watch for 10% in the comfort of my home. If I skip ~20 movies @ the cinema, I can probably afford a decent home theater audio system!!

  6. ramana (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 9:38 am


    I laugh at ur imagination :)

    Kannada Movie producers are struggling to get theaters for screening and Just open Bangalore Times or some cinema guide and count the theaters which are screening kannada and non kannada movies and you’ll get your doubts clarified.

    While discussing, don’t throw lies as facts my dear friend :)

  7. Ravi (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 10:13 am

    I think its more to do with demand and supply as like any other industry. When more and more multiplexes open in the city, I think the price of the tickets should come down. Recently we have Fun cinemas and Fame Lido opening their multiplexes in Bangalore. I have read that there are few more on their way. May be PVYR is trying to cash in as mush as possible before bringing down the rates due to increase in supply.

  8. preran (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

    Bornarchitect: I did go through the link that you sent me. Regardless of how the movie fares at the box office, I want to watch it being the compulsive fanatic that I am. Thankfully, there don’t seem to be too many Rajputs in Bangalore, and even if there are, they must be the saner lot.

    Venkata: I have to admit that my movie indulgences have dwindled over the years too, and am thrive on what the piracy industry gleefully offers me.

    Randramble; I agree that piracy is not the answer but then, why don’t the actors take paycuts and help get down the cost of the movie? After all, a tenth of what I pay for a movie goes into the actors’ pockets, assuming that I am talking Shah Rukh or Hrithik. There are so many movies I want to watch, but have only so much money. Am no way trying to defend piracy, I should admit, just my own limitation at combating it :)

    Dheeraj: Watched a movie in Mumbai a year back paying Rs 90. But then, I must have watched it on a lean day.

    Aggie: So true! At least you understand why I cringe at my payslip every time I read that the over-hyped (my opinion) Kareena jacked up her cost by a few millions?

    Ramana: Does your comment imply that there is a lobby at work trying to keep Kannnada movies out or is it just the demand-and-supply that Ravi talks of?

    Ravi: More power to your wishes! Where are these new cinemas opening by the way?

  9. Kuldeep (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

    Well I don’t go to multiplexes. I watch it in Urvashi Theater. Rs 70 for Balcony. Bigger Screen than multiplexes and decent Sound system.

  10. Kasturi (unregistered) on February 19th, 2008 @ 11:53 pm

    I think you don’t understand how free markets work. The cost is 300 because people are willing to pay that much. If no one showed up then the theaters will have to drop their rates. I wish people would stop being so naive and boycott the multiplexes. They are no better than the regular theaters and the high price is a vanity tax.

  11. randramble (unregistered) on February 20th, 2008 @ 6:00 am

    Kasturi said what I wanted to. If you think something is overpriced, don’t go for it. Actors’ fees goes up in proportion to demand, more or less.

  12. preran (unregistered) on February 20th, 2008 @ 9:59 am

    Kuldeep: Never crossed my mind that I could try out Cauvery, which is really not that far away from where I stay. Thanks for reminding me!

    Kasturi, RandRamble: If you will read my previous comment a ittle closely, you will get that I am not against free markets. It is not the movies that I have to stop going to, it is the addiction in me that has to subside :) I want to watch a movie first day, first show, with my limited budget…so God help me!

    So much like the guys who cannot get rid of their cigarettes, only this is a lesser evil!

  13. EmperorFrost (unregistered) on February 21st, 2008 @ 12:17 am

    Preran, you say you are pro-market and yet you look to the government for protecting you from high prices. How ironic is that? Inadvertently, in my opinion, you’ve hit upon the answer to your ticket price problem – signal the market with your absence from the theaters. 20,000 people making the same choice will signal to the market that the prices are too high. Asking for government to ask the question on behalf of the common man display a fundamental lack of understanding of the principles of free markets.

  14. preran (unregistered) on February 21st, 2008 @ 9:11 am

    EmperorFrost (nice name!): I agree! I agree! I agree! Free markets…bonded me! Pardon!

  15. EmperorFrost (unregistered) on February 21st, 2008 @ 8:22 pm


  16. Naaren (unregistered) on February 22nd, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

    Hi Preran,

    The Best thing is to Join some multiplex. Free movie and also Paid for it! So, u will get a chance to roll a Reel in 2 places!! Kooooool!!!!!!

    Welcome to Blogging!!!

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