Northern Ireland exhibitorMichael McAdam of the Movie House chain of cinemas has hit back at the localWarner Village cinema's 'Cheap Tuesday' promotion, alleging that it is thelatest episode in a long line of promotions that threaten the viability of theexhibition sector in Belfast.
The promotion, currentlyavailable at several Warner Village sites, offers all tickets on Tuesdays toall films at Belfast's Odyssey Centre site at £3.80, £2 lower than the regulartop price of £5.80, and with an additional 30p discount available for onlinebookings.
In what could develop into aticket price war in Belfast, McAdam has counter-attacked with his own 'CrazyTuesday' promotion. He is offering the same maximum reduction of £2.30 onTuesdays at his Yorkgate and Dublin Road sites, giving maximum ticket prices ateach site of £2.45 and £2.70 respectively.
McAdam says he is happy tobear the cost of his own promotion, provided Warner Village is doing the same.He has written to local distributors asking them to confirm that they are notsubsidising the cost of the Warner Village promotion with discounted filmrentals.
A spokesman for WarnerVillage/VUE Cinemas said that their 'Cheap Tuesday' promotion is notunderwritten by a discount arrangement or other collaboration with filmdistributors and that it is a marketing initiative of the remaining WarnerVillage branded sites within the VUE business.
For his part McAdam says hehas had enough of Warner Village's business tactics, citing past occasionswhen, he alleges, fliers offering two for one ticket deals at Warner Villagewere left on his cinema seats, a banner advertising Warner Village was unfurledbefore a performance in one of his cinemas.
While distributors didn'twish to comment on the record about the tensions between exhibitors in Belfast,those contacted all said they were watching developments closely and severalexpressed anxiety that their product not be undervalued by being 'givenaway' too cheaply, and that full price weekend business not be lost tomidweek promotional pricing.
Northern Ireland has a muchlower rate of cinema-going than the rest of Ireland and it is the relativelysluggish nature of the business that has made Belfast - with its threemultiplexes - a particularly tight spot for exhibitors. This pressure will beincreased when a new city centre multiplex at Victoria Square is completed thisyear, although a cinema operator has yet to commit to taking on the site.
Admissions in Belfastcurrently run at approximately 1.5m a year, with the Warner Village site at theOdyssey Centre accounting for about 700,000 at its twelve screens.