Australia's three major exhibitors are dropping their ticket prices by more than 60% during September in anticipation of a downturn in business as a result of the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

The move was lead by Hoyts, which also took into consideration the extended school holidays in some parts of Australia. The other two players - Village Cinemas and Greater Union - originally planned to only lower prices during the games, which run for 16 days from September 15, but will now also discount tickets for the entire month.

"This initiative will get people out of their homes and into our cinemas at a time when we expect TV watching will be higher than normal," said Robert Macolino, chief operating officer at Village Cinemas Australia. "When we ran something similar in October 1997 we had many thousands more people coming to our cinemas which, in turn, impacted positively on our bottom line. We are confident of a similar success this September."

The top ticket price will drop from A$13.60 to A$8.50. Whether independent and arthouse operators will follow suit is uncertain. A spokesperson for Dendy Cinemas said it was unlikely at this stage but Palace Cinemas, which competes more directly with the majors, is likely to match the lower prices.

Scary Movie, Big Momma's House, Pokemon 2, Road Trip, Hollow Man and The Road To El Dorado will be among the new US releases during September. Angst and Mr Accident will be among the local fare.

"Even die-hard sports fans can't watch television 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Greater Union general manager Richard Parton. "It's our antidote to an overdose of sport."

  • Excite@Home and the Seven Network are joining forces to present Olympic Games highlights on Optus@Home, a hybrid fibre/coaxial cable service which passes 2.2 million homes in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Seven is producing more than 350 hours of Olympics coverage for broadcast television and more than 750 hours for two subscription television channels, available on all pay-TV platforms.