Hong Kong's largest cinema chains have slashed ticket prices in an attempt to counter the combined effects of piracy, a post-Chinese New Year cinemagoing decline and a slowing economy with record levels of unemployment.

UA and Broadway cinemas announced that tickets would cost $3.20 (HK$25) every Tuesday and Wednesday in an effort to lure audiences back to the cinema. UA and Broadway operate 40 and 43 screens between them respectively, of the territory's estimated 180 screens.

"We realise that the economy has not been favourable for many people. There are many people who aren't going to the movies and we want to make it a better environment for them," said Don Meyer, director of UA cinemas.

Tessa Lau, general manager of corporate development for Broadway cinemas said the price would take effect for at least four weeks, while the impact of the promotion was assessed.

After a 'golden age' in the Eighties and early Nineties, the box office crashed in 1998-99 when video piracy was at its height and Hong Kong was in the throes of the Asian Financial Crisis.

Domestic filmmakers have paid more attention to quality over quantity in the last two years, leading to a gradual increase in receipts. Despite better films being made, there is a gap between current and pre-1998 figures. The 1994 box office peaked at $16.3m (HK$199.4m) compared to 2001's $16.3m (HK$127.3m).