Toho Cinemas has announced plans for a reduction in the standard price of movie tickets from $21.88 (Y1800) yen to $18.23 (Y1500).

The new price applies to patrons 18 years and older. Ticket prices for university and high school students will drop from 1500 yen to 1000 yen ($12.16), the same as for elementary school students.

Current discounts for seniors, late shows and monthly specials such as “ladies day” may be eliminated. Toho Cinemas CEO Takashi Nakagawa commented on the strategy: “We aim to offer a simpler pricing system that’s more customer-friendly. In this deflationary economy many feel 1800 yen is too high. By rethinking pricing we aim to attract new patrons.”

A trial run will initially be carried out this spring at Toho-owned cinemas in six cities across the country: Utsunomiya (Tochigi prefecture), Hiroshima, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Kofu (Yamanashi prefecture) and Ueda (Nagano prefecture). A full roll out is expected in 2012. 

The aggressive strategy marks the first across-the-board price cut at multiplexes in the industry since multiplexes first opened in 1993.

While there’s been a steady increase in popularity for big domestic films and overall box office upticks in recent years, average revenues at a growing number of multiplex sites hit by 3D upgrade and maintenance costs has hurt.

With Toho controlling the largest percentage of multiplex and standalone screens in the territory (564of 3396 for 16.6%) the initiative is sure to affect other major exhibitors such as Warner-Mycal, Shochiku (Movix), Toei (T-Joy, 109 Cinemas) and United Cinemas.

The initiative comes on the heels of Toho studios achieving all-time record box office revenues of $910m (Y78.4b) in 2010, topping its previous 2008 record of $899m.