Why movie-goers in Karnataka pay more to watch Ponniyin Selvan
The lowest ticket prices for PS-1 in the top three multiplexes (PVR, Cinepolis and Inox) in Karnataka on October 3 were much higher than the costliest ticket prices in the same chain of multiplexes in Tamil Nadu

Why movie-goers in Karnataka pay more to watch Ponniyin Selvan

Karnataka does not have a cap on ticket prices; also, theatre viewership in the state is far lower than in TN or AP, so costlier tickets ensure profits

Ace film director Mani Ratnam’s latest film Ponniyin Selvan – 1 (PS-1) has turned out to be a blockbuster, and movie-goers are thronging the theatres in large numbers to catch the grandiose period drama. But, not many are aware of the reason behind  audiences in Karnataka forking out a lot more money for movie tickets in metros as compared to film-goers in Tamil Nadu.

The lowest ticket prices for PS-1 in the top three multiplexes (PVR, Cinepolis and Inox) in Karnataka on Monday (October 3) are much higher than the costliest ticket prices in the same chain of multiplexes in Tamil Nadu.

The ticket prices for PS-1 in Bengaluru, for example, were ₹230, ₹236 and ₹236 at PVR, Cinepolis and Inox, respectively. The pricing was the same irrespective of the show timings. Interestingly, the lowest ticket prices in Chennai for the same Mani Ratnam film at the same multiplex chains were as low as ₹60.12. The costliest tickets in Chennai were priced at ₹190.78.

Netizens have been sharing screenshots of the movie ticket price differences between Bengaluru and Chennai on social media and seem upset with this big discrepancy.

No cap on ticket pricing in Karnataka

The reason for this gap, it seems, is largely due to the indifferent and passive attitude of the Karnataka government over the issue.

Movie-goers in Karnataka have long been shelling out exorbitant prices for movie tickets in the state and the government has blithely turned a blind eye. The Siddaramaiah government had introduced a cap on movie ticket prices at ₹200 in multiplexes back in 2017, but the government’s order was short-lived as the Multiplex Association of India filed a petition in the High Court and obtained a stay on the government order.

Also read: Ponniyin Selvan sets box office ablaze, crosses Rs 200-cr mark in 3 days

Successive governments have done little to pursue the case and ticket prices continue to remain extremely high in the state. Sources in the Karnataka film industry claimed  producers and exhibitors in the state lobby hard to maintain the movie ticket prices at these steep rates in Karnataka.

A top producer in the Kannada film industry told The Federal, “The rate of admission into movie theatres in Karnataka is high. The ticket prices for KGF Chapter 2 were as high as  ₹1,000 on the opening day but that did not deter the audiences from flocking to the theatres to catch the much-awaited sequel.”

He added that producers and distributors want their films to become profitable as quickly as possible once the film releases. “Why would a producer want to decrease the ticket prices when the audience is more than willing to pay for it?” he asked.

Fixed rates in Tamil Nadu 

The situation is entirely different in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. The government there has set and implemented a cap on ticket prices and hence no producer/distributor/exhibitor can charge more than ₹200 and that covers GST as well.

“The rate of admission at movie theatres in Tamil Nadu is fixed by the state government. An individual producer cannot decide to hike the prices in Tamil Nadu like they do in Karnataka. I think it helps producers in Karnataka to recover their money sooner, as piracy has become a major issue within hours of a film’s release,” said KV Chandrashekar, president of the Karnataka Film Exhibitors Association.

Also read: Kannada films increase focus on original content, but not everybody is happy

While piracy is one issue, producers have also to contend with low viewership in Karnataka. According to Jack Manjunath, one of the top producers and distributors in the Kannada film industry, ticket prices are kept high in Karnataka because the viewership in the theatres in the state is far lesser compared to other southern states such as Andhra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.

“The viewership in theatres in Karnataka is about 6 per cent to 8 per cent, whereas it is about 20 per cent to 25 per cent in Andhra and Telangana and 18 per cent to 20 per cent in Tamil Nadu. We need to set the ticket prices at a higher rate in Karnataka if we must deliver quality big budget films,” argued Manjunath.

Other factors at play in Tamil Nadu

Politics also plays a huge role in the entertainment industry in Tamil Nadu. “An umbilical cord connects cinema and politics in Tamil Nadu. No other state in the country has given rise to Chief Ministers from the entertainment industry like Tamil Nadu. So, governments have always kept movie ticket prices lower in Tamil Nadu, as films have been the best medium for politicians to voice their propaganda,” said Sreedhar Pillai, a senior film journalist from Tamil Nadu.

Interestingly, a section of producers in the Tamil film Industry are fighting to slash ticket prices in the state for small and medium budget films. “The Tamil Nadu government must allow film producers to reduce the ticket prices on weekdays, as it will help increase the footfalls for small and medium budget films to recover their cost and make profits,” said producer TG Thyagarajan of Sathya Jyothi Films, who has produced over 30 films in Tamil.

Interestingly, the producers of Sudeep’s most recent Kannada film, Vikrant Rona, lowered the prices of the cinema tickets to attract viewers. The point to note here is that Karnataka producers are able to hike or reduce film tickets at their will, unlike their counterparts in Tamil Nadu.

Keeping the prices high also allows Kannada film producers to make big budget films. Further, industry sources argued, audiences in Karnataka are paying more for their theatres that are fitted with plush recliner seats at multiplexes, which is not so common in Tamil Nadu. Exhibitors would have to charge more for recliner seats and sofas in theatres but the Tamil Nadu government does not permit them to charge over the capped limit and  therefore it makes no sense for them to provide these upscale facilities.

Also read: Kannada-dubbed version of Ponniyin Selvan finds few takers

National Cinema Day made a difference

India celebrated National Cinema Day on September 16th, 2022 and the prices of movie tickets were cut to ₹75 across single screens and multiplexes for a single day. It proved to be a big success as footfalls increased in cinema halls.

“Kannada film Luckyman, which featured the superstar, the late Puneeth Rajkumar, in a cameo, earned ₹10 lakh across Karnataka in a single day despite being in its second week. The same film collected about ₹3 lakh the next day, when the prices returned to normal,” said Manjunath, the film’s distributor. He admitted that the price of film theatre tickets is being hotly debated among producers in Karnataka after the success of National Cinema Day.

No doubt the cost of movie tickets varies from state to state in the country. Movie-goers in Karnataka would like the ticket prices to be slashed in their state, but this can only happen if the Karnataka government steps in.

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