Half-price tix a Hong Kong hit

HONG KONG — The response to half-price cinema tickets on Tuesdays has been so enthusiastic that two of the biggest local chains have permanently lowered their prices.

The Newport and Empire chains, which show Cantonese-language films, are now charging HK$30 ($3.88) for all shows during the week. Together they have more than 50 houses, just under half of the territory’s total.

“People are coming back to theaters,” said Woody Tsung, executive director of the Motion Picture Industry Assn. “At these prices, they’re saying, ‘Why bother with pirate VCDs’ ” that also run about $4.

Theater owners banded together last February to offer HK$30 tickets to all shows at all theaters on Tuesdays. Since then, lines have snaked around the cinemas on what had been one of the slowest days of the week. During the rest of the week, patrons pay HK$60 at most places, including the upscale UA chain that’s now featuring “Con Air” and “The Lost World.”

The goal was to attract moviegoers who had been forsaking the bigscreen in droves in recent years, in part because of ticket prices. In 1996, attendance dropped 13% over the previous year.

Tsung said “things are quite good” when it comes to attendance since February. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if more theater owners make permanent cuts in prices. “If this strategy works, why not?” he said. “If they can cut their prices in half and make more profit, they will do it.”

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