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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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City pays more per show

Saturday night show of Sarkar.

A ticket at PVR Saket, Delhi, costs Rs 150.

A ticket at Fame Adlabs, Mumbai, costs Rs 170.

A ticket at INOX (Forum), Calcutta, costs Rs 200.

Believe it or not, the Calcutta film-goer coughs up the most for a ticket to the multiplex. Not just Ram Gopal Varma's take on The Godfather, average ticket pricing in the 'price-sensitive' city's cineplexes is either on a par with or above the Delhi and Mumbai mark.

'It's quite strange, since the Calcutta market is not that big and the prices at which movies are bought here by the distributors are one-third or one-fourth that of Mumbai,' says Prashant Srivastava, general manager of 89 Cinemas in Swabhumi. 'The multiplex pricing in Calcutta has been largely experimental. Everyone's trying to figure out what the right price is.'

For INOX Calcutta, which boasts higher footfall than the centres in Pune, Mumbai or Vadodara, the pricing hasn't affected collections.

'Yes, some films are priced higher here, but we have had 10 lakh people coming into INOX (Forum) in a year and seven lakh into INOX (City Centre),' says Subhashish Ganguly, general manager of INOX (City Centre). 'Although the average Bengali is conservative by nature, the target viewership has been people with lots of disposable income,' he adds.

Perhaps it is the novelty factor that is still at work in Calcutta. Says distributor and exhibitor Arijit Dutta: 'The cineplexes can command such high prices because multiplex movie-watching is still something new for the city. Also, since there are not so many of them (as compared to Mumbai or Delhi), the distributor has to recover the money through the few available screens, resulting in higher ticket prices.'

While the Bollywood-watch brigade has swelled, thanks to the three multiplexes, neither the Hollywood pie nor the crowd for off-mainstream regional cinema has grown.

'It's quite baffling that Calcutta's contribution to the annual revenue for English films in India hasn't risen at all,' says Vikramjit Roy, head, publicity and acquisitions, Sony Pictures Releasing of India Limited, distributing Columbia Tristar films in the country. 'The high pricing isn't helping matters at all.'

Proof of this pudding is in the viewing and nothing counts more than numbers at the counter.

'New Empire, with tickets at Rs 40, still does the best business when it comes to English films,' admits Srivastava of 89 Cinemas. 'While Mumbai and Delhi have reached a threshold when it comes to ticket pricing, we should soon touch an optimum point and then stabilise. It should be definitely lower than what we are charging now.'

The coming of at least 12 to 15 more screens in the next three years is being seen as another reason why the ticket prices must come down.

But till the competition comes a-calling, the Bachchan baritone will continue to come at a higher price for the Calcutta cine-goer.

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