SYDNEY — After giving the ailing cinema biz a short, sharp jolt by offering $A5 ($4) tickets on Tuesdays, three of Australia’s four biggest exhibs are endeavoring to enshrine the discount day with half-price tix.

Village has gone further, undercutting its rival Hoyts in Victoria with $4.80 tickets on Tuesdays.

The half-price initiative, with an average price of $5.80, restores a policy that was in force until four or five years ago, when the chains began to gradually bump up prices.

Before the cut to $4, which was introduced in February by Village, Hoyts and Greater Union, and ran until the Tuesday before Easter, the regular Tuesday rate was $7.60 (compared with $11.60-$12 for top ducats).

U.S.-owned indie Reading, which responded by offering half-price tix to its 18 cinemas around Australia for each Tuesday in March, has extended that offer.

“We needed to put the integrity back into Tuesday pricing,” says David Seargeant, managing director of GU’s parent Amalgmated Holdings.

“The ($4) ticket definitely worked, without cannibalizing other days. We hope the half-price promo will prop up what is generally a soft period for exhibitors. And we will look at introducing special prices later if other months are soft.”

The overall Oz B.O. through March 20 was down by a worrying 14% from the same period in 2004. The Easter weekend, when “Robots,” “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” and “The Ring Two” all had solid bows, resulted in a bump on the same week last year (when Easter fell in April).

Distribs welcome the permanent Tuesday discount. “There is a perceived value in half-price; it makes a lot of sense. and it’s a price promotion which is easy to communicate,” says Sony Pictures Releasing Intl. Australia managing director Ross Entwistle.

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