The absence of big releases, combined with the upheaval that ensued after the withdrawal of large denomination notes, seems to have caused theatres in Bengaluru to go largely empty.
Theatre owners say their earnings have taken a hit as access to money is not up to normal levels after the government withdrew Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with effect from Tuesday midnight.
One of the popular single screens in Bengaluru, Rex Cinema on Brigade Road had sold only 115 tickets across all the six shows in the day as of 12 PM on Friday while the capacity of each show was 776 people. Rex screens three movies in the six shows and has seen a sharp decline in the number of tickets sold this Friday as compared to the previous weeks.
Although the theatre accepts card and online payments, most of the tickets are paid for by cash at the box-office. Speaking to TNM, the manager of the theatre, BM Nagaraj said that they were expecting to sell only 300 tickets of a total of 4,242 across all shows.
â€śFor a big release like "Rock On 2", usually 80% of the tickets of one show are sold on a Friday. This weekend we are expecting the business to be slow because of demonetisation. People would probably buy necessities with the limited money they can withdraw rather than watch a film,â€ť he said.
The movie-going audience at the theatres too seemed wary of using cash to pay for the tickets. Some said that they were planning to reduce the amount of money they spent on films.
Dhruv Jain, one of the few audience members, at Rex said, â€śI had to search my entire house to find a few hundred rupee notes because I really wanted to watch a film. I am yet to exchange my Rs 500 notes and do not have a lot of money on my card so I had to pay by cashâ€ť.
Another moviegoer, Dhanajay said, â€śWe had planned to watch a movie before the announcement was made by PM Modi, which is why we are here today. But, I think we should not look at spending on an extravagance like a film for some time now, especially with the limits on monetary transactionsâ€ť.
Although the situation seemed to be slightly better at multiplexes, the absence of any major releases, except "Rock On 2" (Hindi) and "Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada" (Tamil) also has to be factored in.
At the INOX Fame Shankarnag Chitra Mandira theatre on MG Road, only 30 tickets of the morning show were sold. According to J. Rani at the ticket counter, not many people had booked the tickets for the evening shows as well.
However, the manager of the theatre, Shankar said, â€śThe business today is slow as people are mostly occupied with exchanging their notes in banks. But we are expecting the bookings to increase over the next couple of days. As most people pay online or by card, we are hopeful that there will be greater footfallâ€ť.
Vignesh, a manager at INOX JP Nagar, said that their numbers were regular for most movies that they are showing, thanks to card transactions.
Single screen theatres in the city that are mostly dependent on cash payments seemed to be hit worse than multiplexes because of the recent move to demonetise. However it remains to be seen if the slow collections seen on Friday improve over the weekend.