Famous reduces prices

Special discounts will no longer apply

TORONTO — Viacom subsid Famous Players, Canada’s largest theater chain, is slashing prices in the province of Ontario to lure auds.

Tickets will cost C$9.95 ($8.03), down from $11.26. Special discounts such as weekend matinees will no longer apply. Seniors’ and students’ ticket price will remain $6.86.

The Toronto-based chain has 794 screens in 84 locations across Canada.

“Attendance is not precipitously declining, but it’s not growing, and that is such a key metric in the film business,” said Famous Players prexy Robb Chase. Chase hopes that lower prices will get people out to the movies more often and revive the old tradition of seeing a single movie multiple times.

Famous hopes to increase annual box office take by 10%-15%.

Movie attendance has been declining slightly in recent years, down 1% last year and 2% the year before due to a combination of factors, including increasingly sophisticated home theater systems and stiffer competition from other entertainment, such as live sports.

B.O. growth is due to higher prices — a formula Chase said is unsustainable.

Famous Players has lowered prices in other Canadian cities on an experimental basis for several years.In every case the lower prices have had the desired effect, he said. Adding Ontario to the list makes the discounts nationwide.

“People are experimenting with pricing now to increase volume and give customers more options,” said Adina Lebo, executive director of the Motion Picture Theater Assn. of Canada. She said rival Cineplex Odeon has pursued a similar strategy in selected communities.

The discount is a limited time offer, but Chase says that if it increases revenues, the pricing will stay in place.

The studios, he said, have been “supportive, and we hope they continue to be.”