Feature Blogs

Live On 612 ABC Brisbane: Weighing In On Cinema Prices

Created on Tuesday, 09 August 2005 21:00
Written by Matthew Toomey


I had some good fun last Thursday when I got a call from 612 ABC radio who had seen my website on Brisbane’s best cinemas. They wanted someone to interview about the current cinema price wars and felt like I was their man. So expanding my audience, I had the chance to give my two cents to a city wide audience.


It was great fun and a full transcript of the interview with Spencer Howson on Thursday, August 4, 2005 at 4:10pm is contained below.


Spencer was announced the ABC's 2005 "Broadcaster of the Year" and has been with the station for nine years. Enjoy.


Spencer: Ticket prices have been slashed at a number of cinemas this month with one major chain offering $10 tickets if booked online and $5 for Tuesday, the traditionally cheap night at the flicks. Other cinema chains have announced their own price cut deals and special offers and coupons. So what’s caused the price war? Attendance at the movies is apparently down by about 10% despite a run of blockbuster movies like Star Wars Episode 3, War Of The Worlds, Batman Begins, Madagascar, Bewitched and more. Matthew Toomey has been going to the cinemas in Brisbane for years and he has written a review of every film since 1996 and most of these have been posted on his website at www.thefilmpie.com. He’s also reviewed many of the actual cinemas we have in Brisbane. Matthew, good afternoon.


Matt: Good afternoon Spencer, I love that plug.


Spencer: Have you noticed a drop in the number of people going to the cinema in Brisbane?


Matt: Um, I can’t say I’ve really noticed it myself but the statistics don’t lie and the trend is the same in the United States where for 19 straight weeks from March through to July they had a dip in their box-office compared to the same period the year before.


Spencer: What is contributing? What are people saying and what do you think is contributing to that?


Matt: Well I’ve spoken to a few cinema owners and I really think that it’s the movies that people just don’t want to see. Hollywood’s just not making, you know, I think they’re so much more predictable these days with the same sorts of things, the same action, the same special effects and people are tired, they’re rather wait until something better comes along and it just isn’t coming along.


Spencer: So you’d put that above the price of the tickets or the fact that so many people are getting into home cinema now. Above both of those, you’d put the fact that basically the films are just not what they were?


Matt: I do. I mean, price has always been a factor I know but there’s always been deals and price wars each year and movie clubs are great. A lot of people who go to the cinemas regularly know the clubs and know where they can get cheap tickets. And you’re right, home theatre is also a bit of a factor but it’s something that you just can’t get away with big cinemas. Videos have been around for 20-30 years and that hasn’t impacted too much on the cinema experience. So, I’d put it to quality of movies.


Spencer: What do you think of ticket prices outside this one month price war? Something like I saw today, $14 for the cinemas in town are charging. Is that right?


Matt: Yeah, that’s the Birch, Carroll & Coyle cinemas and they don’t get a lot of my business actually, no disrespect to them. But the best cinemas in Brisbane actually are at Southbank and the Balmoral / Hawthorne cinemas on the south side.


Spencer: All three are owned by the same family aren’t they?


Matt: They are and the ticket price is only $7.90 on weekends and that’s for an adult and that’s the most anyone would ever pay any time of the week - $7.90.


Spencer: That’s at the moment during this August price war?


Matt: No, that’s any time of the year. And a small popcorn is only $1.50 and a small coke is $1.70 so the candy bar is good as well.


Spencer: Quite a difference isn’t it? It’s amazing to think that anyone can get away with charging what is effectively double that and still stay afloat.


Matt: The comparison I make is that a normal ticket, a medium popcorn and a medium coke at Southbank is $12.60 and it’s double that at Birch Carroll & Coyle.


Spencer: Double! What about the Dawn in Chermside? Is that the last, truly on its own, family run cinema? How long has it since you last went to the Dawn?


Matt: I last went there when I was about 10 years old and I don’t know if I’ve been back.


Spencer: You’ve gotta go back. It looks exactly the same, the seats are the same, the people are the same, although a little bit older now.


Matt: They’re right down the road from Chermside Birch Carroll & Coyle so it must be hard for them to compete but yeah, they’re hanging in there.


Spencer: They are hanging in and I know my wife took our son Jack to see Madagascar there a couple of weeks ago and it was $5 so I suppose it’s a children’s film and maybe it was $5 elsewhere but I always like to make sure the Dawn is included in any discussion because they have survived despite the BCC opening up just up the road. And these latest price cuts, is it going to get people back into the cinemas long term you think?


Matt: I don’t know, I mean, I very much doubt it I think long term. People might go along in the short term but um, I really don’t know, I still think it comes back to good movies and hopefully with Christmas coming on and you’ve always got the big Oscar films that come out towards the end of the year, maybe that might kick business up again.


Spencer: What is your favourite, aside from the prices, just for sheer comfort, what is your favourite cinema in Brisbane?


Matt: Ooo, tough choice there. I think that the Palace Centro at New Farm is very good – excellent cinema there and it’s got some great wining and dining outside. And there’s a new cinema I’ll plug over at Rosalie called The Blue Room.


Spencer: Now tell me about it, I’ve heard about it but haven’t been.


Matt: Yeah, well if you go to Gold Class you’d think it’s exclusive to Birch Carroll Coyle and if you go there on weekends you’ll pay $30 a ticket but The Blue Room is in exactly the same mould with 2 cinemas, one with 36 seats and the other with 24 seats. On the weekends it’s only $15 a ticket and you can get meal deals, eat in the cinema, beers, and drink in the cinema as well.


Spencer: Still sounds a bit like a brothel but I’ll take your word for it that it’s a cinema. Is it truly $30 per ticket at Gold Class?


Matt: On weekends and Thursday and Friday night, yes.


Spencer: Do you know if they’re discounting during this August price war? I suppose not with the boutique end of the market.

Matt: Probably not but the best way to go if you’re going to go to those cinemas is to go during the week before 5pm and it’s only going to cost you $17 but of course as I just said The Blue Room is cheaper and that’s every day of the week.


Spencer: Interesting to chat with you this afternoon Matthew Toomey, who runs the website www.thefilmpie.com.


Matt: Thank you Spencer.


Spencer: Thanks for your time.