Minimum price for discount movie tickets mulled

Updated: 2012-02-28 10:22

By Zheng Xin (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Wu Jian, a 25-year-old Beijing resident, says he spends most of his weekends hanging out with friends, who enjoy "picking up a movie" after a relaxing dinner.

"We usually buy tickets as a group for a cheaper price, 25 yuan ($4) for each, on average," Wu said. "That's an affordable entertainment for us."

However, he may go to the cinema less frequently in future because the film administration is considering a minimum price for discount film tickets.

Discount tickets, mostly purchased by groups, cinema members or through sales promotions, should not be lower than 70 percent of the full price, according to a draft proposed by the film administration under the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

The proposal is intended to standardize ticketing management in the film market, the administration said.

The suggestion has aroused strong disapproval and even resentment from the public.

"As a student with no income, for sure the lower the ticket price, the better," said Wang Yue, a 23-year-old English-Chinese translation major in Beijing Foreign Studies University, who always goes to the cinema with discount tickets purchased online.

"Why does the regulation of the film ticket market have to come at the expense of movie fans?" she asked.

Yu Chao, general manager of Capital Cinema, supports the draft policy.

"If the proposed draft is finally passed, it will only better regulate the country's film industry and guarantee legitimate and fair competition," he said.

According to Yu, some cinemas attract customers by lowering the ticket price to an extreme low, which means that other cinemas have no way out except to cut prices as well.

"Although such price cuts bring more affordable tickets to audiences temporarily, this is a vicious circle for the film industry as a whole," said Yu. "The chaotic competition will not help the market grow at all. It's only dragging customers from one cinema to another."

Blindly cutting down the ticket price will also reduce film quality, severely damaging the interests of the production and distribution teams, he added.

Yu said the suggested maximum 30 percent discount off the full price might not necessarily lead to an increase in film ticket prices in the country.

"The retail price of tickets is still fluctuating," said Yu. "To avoid a drop in movie attendance and to attract audiences back to the cinema, theaters may lower their basic retail price, which might bring down the price in turn," he said.

"The full price of a film ticket in China is about the same as the price in the United States, in general, despite the huge average income gap of the general public between the two countries," said Kevin Imafuku, a Japanese-American student from the University of Hawaii who was an exchange student in China in 2009. "I still feel like the ticket price should be cheaper in China."

In response, Yu said that despite the high listed price for film tickets, with promotion sales or discounts, the average ticket price in China is below 50 yuan, with the figure in Beijing reaching some 40 yuan.

"Many people are buying film tickets at a discount of more than 50 percent through membership or group purchase," said Yu.

The draft proposal, which is still under discussion, also raised the issue of bundling sales of film tickets with products such as popcorn and beverages, which is now strictly prohibited.

The administration set a price ceiling for tickets of 3-D films, giant screen films and VIP halls, saying it should be at most 150 percent of the highest price of the same film in an ordinary cinema.