Innovation in the form of price competition could be introduced to the UK theatrical market if Stellios Haji-Ioannou succeeds in expanding his Easy Group empire into cinema.
Haji-Ioannou plans to open his first EasyCinema theatres in London by the end of this year and, according to the Sunday Times, will sell tickets for as little as $0.30 (20p). That price will only be available for customers who buy tickets a month in advance and over the internet, while patrons buying the last seats in a popular showing may pay as much as other London venues. In the West End entertainment ticket prices run as high as $15.
The Greek-born millionaire uses similarly aggressive discounting at his EasyJet airline and EasyRentacar car hire and EasyEverything internet cafe operations. Haji-Ioannou describes average seat occupancy rates of 20% as "criminal" and said: "going to the movies is price elastic, so you can increase usage. We are going to get people going to the cinema on a Tuesday morning instead of them going to the swimming pool or out for a coffee."
The company has yet to detail plans of when where or how it will open the often-touted EasyCinema chain (Screendaily Nov 18, 2001) and there are many in the UK exhibition sector sceptical about the launch of another group into a fairly mature market.
This week independent multiplex chain, Cine-UK was also put up for sale. According to the Sunday Times investment bank Goldman Sachs was appointed with the task of bringing in buyers for the business valued at $145m (#100m). In the year to March 2001 it made operating profits of $5m.