A price promotion by the two largest theatre chains in Hong Kong backfired when movie-goers were charged full price for the most popular films.

On February 25, UA and Broadway cinemas announced a four week promotion for Tuesdays and Wednesdays where tickets would be reduced by as much as $6.40 (HK$50) to $3.20 (HK$25). But movie-goers attracted by a promotional sign at one theatre were outraged when informed that the offer did not apply to five of the most popular movies in cinemas.

The promotion was unveiled to lure audiences back to cinemas and to combat video piracy.

UA cinemas director Don Meyer said the last-minute change was unexpected and due to opposition from film distributors. Customers had to pay full price for five of the most popular films in Hong Kong - Monsters Inc, Ocean's Eleven, Bandits, Golden Harvest's Marry A Rich Man and One Hundred Years of Film's Fat Choi Spirit. Their distributors were not available for comment.

Distributors and exhibitors split box office takings 50-50 in the first week of a film's release, with the balance going to as much as 15-85 for the exhibitor the longer the film stays in theatres.

"It was too rushed. We needed more time to get used to the idea," said Peter Tam, head of Astoria Films Distribution. "It will be hard for films in their first week of release. There was not enough consultation."

Astoria, which handled The Musketeer and will release Michel Ocelot's Princes And Princesses in May, was not affected by the promotion.

"It's short notice, I agree," said Era's head of theatrical distribution Cecilia Yau, who said the company would probably agree to the promotion when it releases Kate & Leopold in mid-March.