Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eventually, it all comes down to
the box-office ticket!

Smaller the film, smaller the price of a ticket? Or is it the opposite?

By Ankita R Kanabar

(This feature has been published in the August 3, 2013 issue of Super Cinema)

Legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, once said, “Filmmaking is a game you should play with all your cards, and all your dice and whatever else you’ve got.” Now, that’s true, isn’t it? Behind everything that looks glamorous and larger-than-life on the 70mm, is the hard work, planning and plotting! So, while making a film is a herculean task in itself, still, the most important part of the entire process remains, making the final product reach the audience! Because, beyond a shadow of doubt, the ‘aam junta’ is the ultimate king! Which is why, today, promoting a film is also as important as making it. Yet, what remains a question is how can a film reach out to the widest possible audience? But before that, here’s a bigger question, who’s the target audience?
Depending on that, the producers, along with the distributors and exhibitors have a number of things to work on, for instance, the number of screens where the film will be shown, and most importantly, how the tickets for a particular film should be priced.
Because, at the end of the day, it all comes down to one thing – the moolah! What matters is that the film should produce money at the box office, thus, making everyone involved in the process happy. Which is why, pricing a ticket for a film, plays such a huge role, especially, when it comes to small-budget films, with no huge stars, which don’t see a very wide release.

In recent times, just as we see a gradual change in Hindi cinema, there are so many smaller films which have turned out to be huge hits, because of their content, backed by a good strategy. Having said that, let’s also talk about extremely niche films like ‘Ship Of Theseus’, in recent times. The film boasts of some great content, and has also generated a rave response from the industry insiders which led to an extremely positive word of mouth on social networking sites like Twitter. But, since the film was originally meant for a very niche, elite audience, in its opening weekend, the ticket prices were high. Some people think it was absolutely justified considering it was meant for that kind of an audience, and some feel that a small film like this should be priced slightly less so it can reach a larger audience. While the little debate continues, the film has definitely benefitted through positive word of mouth, and the ticket prices also went down eventually in the later days. In the meantime, another film making news is ‘The Lunchbox’, starring Irrfan Khan, Nawaazuddin, and Nimrat Kaur, that has now been picked up by Karan Johar for a release in India. So, then, what is the kind of strategy that producers, along with distributors and exhibitors should adopt for films like these? How does one make it reach to a wide audience, and yet, not lose too much money? We spoke to a few people on this subject, and how the ticket prices play a pivotal role in deciding the fate of a film. Take a look!

Ramesh Taurani, producer
"I think the ticket price should be decided according to the budget of a film. We’ve been explaining this to multiplex owners, and exhibitors, but that’s not really happening. When you make a small film, you want a lot of people to come and watch it, and if the price is high, the audience won’t really watch the film. We had a film called ‘Toh baat Pakki’, it was a small film, and a good film, but it didn’t do well, probably because the ticket price was slightly high. Obviously, the audience wouldn’t pay the same amount for ‘Toh Baat Pakki’ as they would be willing to pay for ‘Race’ or ‘Race 2’. So, I think there should be some difference in the ticket prices, depending upon the size of the film."

 Shyam Shroff, Shringar Films
"Price of Rs 400/- or Rs. 500/- for a ticket, that amount is a high figure even in case of commercial movies. In my humble opinion, it should be restricted to only prime shows. As far as smaller films, like ‘Ship of Theseus’ or ‘The Lunch Box’ are concerned, the idea is very simple. Such movies should just be treated as new born babies. One needs to nurture them with mother’s milk, bottled milk, semi solid food and solid food, step wise."

Shrishti Arya, producer
"Obviously, the way to go about smaller films is different than the conventional huge films. But the ticket price depends on several factors, like the budget of the film, the star cast, the target audience. Probably, I think the way ‘Ship of Theseus’ was handled was very nice, and I wouldn’t really disagree to what they did. But you know the audience also does spend on the films that they really wish to watch. So, during festivals, or as they say, ‘event movies’, the audience does spend and watch the film. It is a wonderful time now, and smaller films will continue to do well with a good strategy involved. Even with a film like ‘The Lunchbox’, I’m sure with someone like Karan Johar backing it up, they will plan a good strategy for the film."

Akshaye Rathi, Rathi group of cinemas
"I believe the pricing of tickets for every single film should be worked out after studying the demographic details of the audience it primarily caters to, and determining the amount that would make it value for money for movie goers. For example, while a ‘Chennai Express’ or a ‘Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara’, can comfortably sell tickets at Rs. 350 in multiplexes, a ‘John Day’ featuring Naseeruddin Shah and Randeep Hooda can attract a significant audience if the same multiplex shows it at Rs. 150, which the average audience would be comfortable paying for an interesting film without stars. While bigger films that have wide releases must open across multiple grades of cinemas, in order to allow the audience from every section of the social strata to watch the film, the small releases should look at ensuring that every screen they open at, gives them a significant return of investment. For example, a ‘Ship Of Theseus’, which is very niche (and will not suffer the effects of large scale piracy) should ideally open at the red lounge and gold class initially where it can sell tickets at Rs. 400 and above. Once the digital projection overheads reduce in the second week, it can go to the normal multiplex screens and be priced at about Rs. 200 a ticket. And then, when the projection overheads come to a bare minimum in week three, it can target getting shows at single screens at price points as low as 50-100, which will guarantee a positive return of investment. A cycle like this can ensure that people from every SEC who are interested in watching a film, can get an opportunity to watch it at a price that is affordable for them, while keeping the returns for exhibitors and distributors positive. But, these decisions ought to be taken by the entire value chain – the producer and the distributor in consultation with exhibitors."

Girish Johar, Head, Distribution and Acquisition, Sahara Motion Pictures 
"The price of the ticket must be decided with respect to the film being offered. Ticket price is a very critical issue, sometimes despite a film being good, the audience may not go to see a film because of the higher ticket rates. But, a film like ‘Ship Of Theseus’, it was marketed for the high-end niche audience who could probably afford to spend that much amount for a film, hence, one can’t really say that the ticket was priced too high. Somewhere, people associated with the film knew that probably only a certain section of the audience who prefer watching niche cinema, would watch the film, hence it was only priced that way. In general though, the pricing of a movie at the theatres depends on several factors, whether it’s a holiday, whether it’s releasing on any festival, or during some event, or how big is the film. For instance, if it’s a film like ‘The Lunchbox’, the audience may not want to pay a huge amount to watch a film, but perhaps if it’s a Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan or a Ranbir Kapoor film, people may just spend that much money. It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes, if the content is good, and it’s priced high, then the audience still may go watch the film, but if the content is only not good, then the collections will drop on Friday itself. I think the ideal way is to be safe and price a film moderately, so it can reach a maximum audience, and so it could enjoy the best of both worlds. There are various factors involved when pricing of a film is concerned, and producers, distributors and exhibitors would like to definitely cash in, on the favourable factors like a holiday or festival. "

No comments:

Post a Comment