For three years in Amsterdam, I watched many movies on my computer. Movies I had never heard about. For the first one and half year, the only movie I saw in the theatres was Spiderman 2. Then one and half year later everything changed.
Amsterdam is rich in terms of art. It has many music halls, small theatres and huge multiplex. The biggest multiplex group is Pathe. It has 4 multiplex in Amsterdam alone with almost more than 35 screens between them but most of them running to absent audience. A ticket to a show costs 9 Euros, 4:50 Euros on a Saturday morning and 6:25 Euros for all Tuesday shows.
So if I watched 4 movies a month, my spending on movies would be 36 euros a month. If I wait a couple of months, renting the DVD for the same movie would cost me 3:50 Euros per movie. But then watching the movie on the DVD does not have the same fun as watching the movie on the big screen. It was experience against economics.
My problems were solved when almost two years back, Pathe came up with Unlimited card. As the card said unlimited it really meant unlimited. The card had a compulsory subscription of 4 months with 17.50 Euros per month. After the mandatory 4 months, viewer could continue or opt out. You can watch unlimited movies per month using the Unlimited Pathe pass card.
The idea is simple. You pay 17.50 euros per month. You have 4 theatres in the city. Walk in any theatre, show your Pathe Unlimited Card and get a ticket to the movie you want to see. No discount, no payment, just the card and the ticket free. Only condition is that you can get a ticket within one hour before the movie starts. So if the movie is houseful, you will not get a ticket. Its first come, first serve.
Even if I see two movies per month, I get my money worth. For people like me who like to watch lots and lots of movies, it was a dream come true because I could see movie every weekend and sometimes even two movies back to back. It was a win-win situation for both. I get to see more movies and the theatre gets an assured income of 17:50 euros per month per person and a full hall. The scheme was an instant hit.
It was good for the theatres, the audience and the movies too.
I saw “Namesake” in an almost full hall with mostly European audience. Now “Namesake” is a movie which has a strong Indian root although it is a story that can be identified by many immigrant and still people would be reluctant to watch a movie like that. People were ready to watch movie which they would normally avoid. A movie like the “Queen” or “Little Miss sunshine” which are mostly so-called festival movies got an audience and was appreciated too. The only problem with the scheme was the number of movies releasing in Amsterdam were far too less (8-10 per month).
Coming to Mumbai, I saw Manorama -Six Feet Under” paying 160 rupees in an almost empty hall. The total hall capacity 110 seats. People in the hall; approximately 40 that means 70 seats wasted and the movie would be declared a flop.
Replicating the same scheme from Amsterdam in Mumbai might work for the movies and the film industry as a whole. The tickets cost more than 150 rupees and above for a movie. If I take a family of 4 with me, it costs me 600 rupees minimum multiply that with 4 movies a month and the bill comes out to be 2400 rupees. Added to it the cost of snacks, it easily crosses rupees 3000 per month. I could buy DVDs for the movies and reduce the cost by one third or even one-fifth with the cost of DVDs going very low.
An average movie viewer, would rather spend this amount on big-budget, big star movies rather than watching a different but critically acclaimed good movie. On an average a minimum of 10 movies are released every month counting the Hindi and Hollywood movie. So if an individual has to see all these movies, he/she would have to spent minimum of 1500 rupees per month per person on all movies.
We have a lot of Multiplex chains in Mumbai like Cinemax, Fame, Adlabs, Movietime, PVR etc. Can these multiplex chain have Unlimited movies card for the viewers? The advantage would be;
- The movie lovers would love to see the movies in theatre for a lesser cost that means benefit for the movie-goer.
- Casual movie viewers would opt for this scheme and maybe watch those movies which they wouldn’t normally watch. (A big ‘maybe’ here)
- The theatres would not go empty for small movies without big stars. That means good business for eveerybody
- An assured income for the theatres irrespective of the fate of the movies. (Pathe Unlimited had 15000 card holders in 2006. Do the maths)
- Low movie piracy because people would watch the movie in theatres.
I could think of the following scenarios
- Consider a 1000 rupees card for 10 movies. The viewer can see the movies over a period of 2-3 months.
- A monthly card of Rs. 500 with a max of 4-6 movies per month.
- A family card for 2000 rupees for a family of 4
The above is just a suggestion and more economically viable option beneficial to both viewers and the owners could be planned.
With the rising number of multiplexes, the audience would be divided. Added to the rising cost of tickets, I think the economy of watching a movie would decide over experience of watching a movie in the theatres. With the cost of home theatres and DVDs going down, I wouldn’t mind watching the movie in the comfort of my home although I would still prefer the cinema experience. Also I don’t have to wait for a movie to be in Theatres if the cost is low.
Multiplex have changed the way movies are viewed today. It has brought people back to the theatres and hopefully the cost should not be a deterrent for watching any movie. Multiplexes should be looking at bringing more people to the theatres not making them exclusive. Unless that happens, good movies like “The Blue Umbrella” would not find an audience because it has Pankaj Kapoor because people are looking at “Dhol” because it has stars.