Would lower ticket prices encourage more people to see Australian films in cinemas?

That question has been raised several times in the debate over the inability of  local films to connect with moviegoers. The answer is a resounding yes, according to some respondents to the latest informal survey on social media.

However exhibitors and distributors have rejected calls for variable pricing for Australian films. “If you ask people about value/price, they always say that items are too expensive, however Gold Class and other added-value offerings continue to be extremely successful,” Paramount Pictures MD Mike Selwyn tells IF. “Cinema is good value entertainment considering the quality of the infrastructure in Australia.”

Producer Annie Kinnane asked on Facebook, “If Australian films at the cinemas had a ticket price of $15 compared to the big American films at $19.50 would you see that as a way of supporting our Aussie film industry – or would you think the Aussie film mustn't be very good if they've discounted it?”

Actor Gemma Kaye responded, “I reckon I'd go more actually. Even at $15.”

Connor Van Vuuren, who co-created ABC2’s Soul Mates with brother Christiaan and Nick Boshier, said, “I think the price makes a difference. But the missing ingredients are fun and excitement… also 'high concept.' I think we need some films of that nature as palete cleansers after so much darkness.”

Film industry electrician Tobias Andersson opined, “I have been arguing for a while that it's through the average punter’s wallet you get them to take a chance on Australian films. Theatre and musicals have different ticket prices, so why not film?”

Director, writer, producer Matthew Holmes said, "Finally this is being considered! I've been saying this for years- why are $5m films the same ticket price as a $200m film? There is no logical explanation for it. In every other business it's different. A cheaper product always costs less than a top-of-the-range product. Should apply to cinema prices. Trial it at least to see if it works."

In the opposing camp, advertising executive Josh Bryer argued, “Some Aussie films are up there with the best. Pay full price for them! Support their makers financially too.”

Stills photographer Jasin Boland, who worked on Mad Max: Fury Road, The Mistress and Dracula Untold, said, “I'd be more likely to see them with a decent marketing campaign instead of "this is an Australian film you must see it." That's all we ever hear, who cares! if it's a great film market the damn thing right and bums will be on seats. Trust me the problem doesn't come from the filmmakers, look at how many Australians go global.”

EOne MD Troy Lum opposes any lowering of ticket prices, arguing that would devalue Australian films in the minds of moviegoers.

“Once you start playing with prices you are saying ‘our cinema is worth less than other kinds of cinema,’” Lum told C J Johnson, host of ABC radio’s Movieland.

Johnson had suggested eOne’s Son of a Gun might have sold more tickets if they were cheaper than US blockbusters. Lum responded, “I don’t believe you get a lesser experience out of Son of a Gun than an Avengers 4. It’s a different experience.”

The producer/distributor renewed his calls for a flexible release model for Australian and other independent films, as IF had reported. Lum said it costs $1 million- $1.5 million to market multiplex films and it’s hard, if not impossible, for most Australian films to gross $5 million so the distributor can recoup.

EOne spent $300,000 on P&A for Son of a Gun, which has grossed just $136,000. Lum said he could have taken a punt on Julius Avery's thriller if he’d been able to release it on DVD two weeks after its theatrical run and a week later on digital platforms.

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6 Comments

  1. Free entry and a donation box at the exit. Those who liked it will give generously. Better than a money back guarantee.

  2. I agree with Lumm. There is a value associated with purchase prices. A lower ticket price will infer a less valuable experience. Also to say that budgets should reflect ticket pricing is crazy too. We are selling stories not commodities. If Marvel believes that spending more on effects equals a better story that is up to them. Audiences will decide. To create a system though that says ‘Yes a good experience = a big budget = higher ticket prices’ will only further erode indie cinema and the industries behind them.

  3. The best thing that Screen Australia and the state film agencies could do is develop an effective way of marketing Australian films. We spend most of the budget on making films and relatively little is spent promoting them. So only the devoted ever hear about most local films.

  4. “…and it’s hard, if not impossible, for most Australian films to gross $5 million so the distributor can recoup.”

    oh we wouldn’t want distributors to do anything ‘hard’.

  5. I wish i knew why the Aussie audience does not support Australian film … it’s beyond me!! We have produced great films. Like films from all countries, there have been a few bombs, but overall i believe we do pretty damn good for the size of our population – we have VERY talented actors, crew, producers, directors & cinematographers etc. Proof of this is that, unfortunately, they are so often snapped up by overseas productions, often because they cannot get a sustainable amount of work here.

    I do think that movie tickets overall are too expensive in this country, however, i also understand the process and the difficulties involved in getting a project up and running in Australia, the costs involved in promotion, marketing etc, to get a film up on the screens.

    I am of mature age, i see 2, sometimes even 3 films a week and therefore look for every discounted ticket available; I go to the theatres that offer me a free movie after 5 or 6 visits etc. I love Australian film and support it as much as i can, however this is often prevented by the lack of screens/session times available. I work hours that limit my film-going to Fri night and the weekend. I wanted to see Son of a Gun but it had gone by the time i could get to it. And i realise the catch-22 situation here… the cost of having a film running longer/ spread over more screens etc.

    I cannot support higher prices for, say, American films and lower prices for our homegrown variety … the quality is equal in most cases. As an avid film-goer i see a need for more promotion, more people need to know about our films, hear about them, get excited about them. Sadly, I don’t know how this can reasonably be achieved without the injection of $$. I bet if u asked half the population if they were a fan of E.G. Teresa Palmer or Mia Wasikowska, Tom E Lewis or Anthony Hayes they’d say “who …??”.

    Keep on keeping on Aussie film … I’ll always be there.
    Lana Calnan

  6. For God’s sake can we stop blaming Australian films for the failure of the Box Office on every film!! I have just returned from attending the REAL FILM FESTIVAL in Newcastle where Australian films were sensibly debated on two different public panels. One enthusiastic Moviegoer was appalled that she now has to pay $23 to go to the movies.With great respect to Mike Selwyn the cost of the bloody infrastructure has got nothing to do with how the audience selects the film they want to see.Interesting to note that in Newcastle and at Erina near where I live HOYTS are proudly displaying on permanent signs $9.90 Every session ALL DAY EVERY DAY.It’s high time the Distributors and Exhibitors woke up to themselves and realised that if going to the pictures was $15 ALL SESSIONS EVERY DAY they might start filling those empty concrete boxes called multi plexes. Oh!,and one last thing,can everyone stop referring to THIS LOW BUDGET AUSTRALIAN FILM,I’m not aware of any discounts ever being offerd at the box office to low budget Italian,Greek,German or even,dare I say it,American films. So please get off our backs.
    There is nothing wrong with the Australian Film Industry that a good film can’t cure…Ah! do I hit a chord?

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