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Audience Kahan Hai?

The first time it happened to me, I was taken aback.  I booked a  ticket in advance for the much talked about Dharm (which the director wanted to send as India’s entry for the Oscars and went to court for it), and the show was cancelled, because nobody else had turned up at the Andheri multiplex.

I was furious too, I had to write about the film, I had paid a high price for the ticket, plus a home delivery charge, the auto fare would be another Rs 120… but there’s no way the theatre would run a show for one person.

Subsequently, it happened so many times, that I am wary of making the attempt of going to a distant multiplex.  The down-market cinemas, like the Gaiety-Galaxy (or G7) complex in Bandra, never had this problem of zero turnout – the worst films ever, get at least 50 people in,  because the ticket rates are much lower, the snacks much cheaper (and as good).  Never mind that the audience is largely the rickshawala type (they come out of the free parking lot in large numbers after the first show).  There’s no chance of returning without seeing the movie from there, in fact, for some really hopeless movies (like Tom, Dick and Harry), I have had to buy tickets in ‘black’.

At the multiplexes, the security frisks you not so much for bombs, but for food and water – which they confiscate, so you are forced to buy overpriced and often stale snacks from their counters. At the G7, they don’t care what you carry in.  They don’t have uniformed staff,  piped music, toilet paper and hand-driers in the loo,  but their audience buys tickets for the movies, not the perks.

The other day, I went to see a Hollywood film at a South Mumbai multiplex, and looked up to see what else was running, and then wondered who would pay Rs 270 to see Barah Aana or Aloo Chaat. And then pay Rs 20-50 for parking and then Rs 50 for a tea, and Rs 60 for popcorn. No wonder nobody turns up for the smaller films, and shows are cancelled. And to think, when multiplexes were started, everybody thought they would help promote offbeat cinema.   If the ticket rates were reasonable, maybe more people would go in, and even buy the pricey popcorn.

Anyway, inflation has caught up with good ol’ G-7 too.  The snacks and beverages cost Rs 5 more.. and when I was asked to pay Rs 110 for a ticket, I grumbled, “You are charging multiplex rates.” And the booking clerk said, “But we are a multiplex.”

A few weeks later, the price was back to a comfortable Rs 75.  “Kya karen, public nahin aati,” said the man in at the ticket window.

Now producers and multiplex owners are fighting for a larger share of the pie, and as a layperson who does not really understand the business, I’d like to know what pie?   Films that nobody wants to see?

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