Since the release of 3 Idiots (2009), the trend of releasing biggies at inflated ticket prices got a boost. The exhibitors jumped on the bandwagon, as it meant more revenue. Viewers complained but eventually most of them shelled out money as they’d be desperate to catch the film. The trend has now become a norm and for certain films, where the excitement is unprecedented, it’s common to see tickets being sold even for more than Rs. 1000 in certain premium multiplexes.
However, not all exhibitors are in favour of this practice. Manoj Desai, executive director, G7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir Cinema have always believed in keeping the ticket prices affordable for the common man. After a long time, he recently hiked ticket rates by Rs. 10, from Rs. 130 and Rs. 160 to Rs. 140 and Rs. 170, to cope with the rising costs. And now, he has been told to further increase the rates if he wants to show the highly awaited film, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness.
As a result, Manoj Desai has refused to play the Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer. He told Bollywood Hungama, “Vinay Choksey, who is the booker of Gaiety-Galaxy aka G7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir, told me that Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness will be given to us only if we agree to increase the ticket rates. However, Mr Arun Nahar, the managing director of our cinema, is not in favour of increasing rates by even one rupee for this film. He said that we’ll happily play the film on the current rates and that we are not ready to inflate the prices.”
According to Manoj Desai, “Instead of Rs. 140 and Rs. 170, we have been told to charge Rs. 170 for stalls and Rs. 200 for balcony in order to play Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness.”
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness is a Disney film and Manoj Desai hasn’t communicated with the production house directly. “I have been in touch with Vinay Choksey only.”
What surprised Manoj Desai is that Disney and Marvel’s blockbuster, Spider-Man: No Way Home, was recently released, in December 2021. At that point, no such terms were dictated. Hence, while almost every cinema hall in the country had hiked ticket rates, Spider-Man: No Way Home played in G7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir at the then ticket prices, which were Rs. 130 and Rs. 160.
This is not the first time that Manoj Desai has raised his voice against this trend. In the past, he didn’t release the Aamir Khan-starrer PK (2014). This was a time when the ticket prices in his theatres used to be Rs. 80 and Rs. 100. The distributors of PK had asked him to charge a steep Rs. 150 and Rs. 250 from the public! Manoj didn’t relent and the Aamir Khan-starrer wasn’t shown at his theatres.”
In April 2019, a couple of weeks before the release of Avengers: Endgame, a similar diktat was kept in front of Manoj Desai. He had told Bollywood Hungama at that point, “UTV waale pagal ho gaye hai! They are compelling me that the minimum ticket price of Avengers: Endgame should be Rs. 250! And I have refused.”
Finally, the distributors relented and allowed him to play Avengers: Endgame at the then current prices – Rs. 110 and Rs. 140. It now remains to be seen if they similarly agree to release Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness in Gaiety-Galaxy and Maratha Mandir at the present-day ticket prices as well.
Meanwhile, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness is all set for a humongous opening. The advance booking was thrown open nearly a month ago and shows began to get full since then. As per reports, the advance booking got a boost over the weekend. The film is all set to have a huge day 1, when it releases on May 6.