Execs sound alarm about cinema discount pricing

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Day and Date Down Under

A number of unnamed film industry executives have decried the latest round of discount pricing for cinemas in Australia and New Zealand. They call it a cancer that is threatening the industry. In Australia, Readings charges A$10 (US$7) at most of its standard cinemas (more for Gold Class) while some independents in Queensland are charging as little as A$5-6. In New Zealand, it is the Hoyts Cinemas with the lowest prices at around NZ$8.50 (about US$5). Event cinemas and Roadshow cinemas usually charge more in both countries. I went to a leading independent cinema in Sydney to see Dunkirk in 70mm and the concession (discount) rate was A$20, so the discounts are certainly not everywhere.

Meanwhile, independent cinemas in Australia are asking for an exemption from Australian cartel laws so that members can collectively and transparently negotiate film rental agreements with distributors. At the moment, the large chains, Hoyts, Event Cinemas and Roadshow, can use their power to negotiate with major distributors, but a single independent cinema has much less bargaining space. The ACCC (the competition and corruption watchdog) is expected to rule on the application in September.

Colin Thiele published his iconic Australian book Storm Boy about a young boy and a pelican in 1964 and it came to life in 1976 as a very popular film Down Under. Geoffrey Rush has been cast in a remake that has just started filming for a 2018 release. Rush joked that he played a pelican in Finding Nemo and first thought they wanted him as a live-action pelican in the new film. “And then, of course, I realized they wanted me to play an old guy,” he said. As with the original, this remake is being made on location in South Australia.

Despite complaints about ticket prices at some cinemas, new cinemas are sprouting up all over, Palace Cinemas announced a new 12-screen cinema complex in their hometown of Melbourne. This will be part of a new 18-story development in Moonee Ponds and will include three platinum screens and an outdoor screening area. It is expected to open in 2019. Across town in Footscray, Yarraville's Sun Theatre co-owner Michael Smith has confirmed plans for a new eight-screen cinema. With eight screens at Yarraville and the new eight screens, this will expand the chain to 16 screens. This is also planned for 2019, but in the meantime he wants to "whet the appetite" of local residents with some outdoor screenings on the rooftop of an adjacent building in summer.

Over in West Australia, Event Cinemas is about to open their new eight-plex at Whitfords Shopping Centre in Perth at the end of September. Also in Perth, the Luna Leederville is also expanding. Having gained the lease of an adjacent building, they will expand the current cinema with four new screens. "Leederville has been crying out for more screens and this location is perfect. I can't wait," said Luna Palace Cinemas managing director Ingrid van den Berghe.

Send your Australia/New Zealand news to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.