By: Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi – Mid-day.com
November 26, 2006
Prime shows of Dhoom 2 were sold out even before advance booking officially opened to the public last week (November 19 for multiplexes and November 20 for single screens). Some theatres said shows had been block booked by corporates and distributors while others said Yashraj had taken them all.
But Sunday MiD DAY bought tickets to these shows from black marketers minutes before the film began. So while the public didn’t have access to these tickets, for touts it was still business as usual.
A few black marketers alleged that for a cut, theatre staff sells out shows to racketeers even before the window opens.
While Dhoom 2 was expected to have a great opening weekend, of the five theatres we visited the morning advance booking began, tickets in one multiplexes were sold out even before the window opened. In two others, only the first two rows were available and in the single screens, the shows were house full.
When approached, theatre managers claimed ignorance.
|Standing under the house full sign at Regal minutes before we bought the ticket from a tout|
When we asked the counter person at Regal cinema (only one show daily at 9:45 pm), how Friday and Saturday’s balcony seats were booked out before plans opened, he claimed that Yashraj had booked the shows.
A Yashraj spokesperson said, “We have not block booked any theatre. It is typical of theatres to blame distributors and producers when they can’t explain something. We can’t instruct theatres to not accept block bookings. In fact some of our employees are finding it hard to get tickets. However, we know that companies have booked shows for their employees in certain theatres.”
The same Regal tickets (balcony for Friday and Saturday) were available on a home delivery service as late as Friday evening at a premium of Rs 50 on each ticket. And on Friday night before the show we managed to catch the eye of a black-marketer around the corner (he had just gotten rid of the police) who sold us two prime balcony seats at Rs 300 each, a mark-up of Rs 200.
|Standing at Star City where a sign clearly tells customers that tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s evening shows will not be issued due to prior booking|
A board outside the theatre pre-empted customer trouble on the day plans opened by saying that the shows were sold out because of distributor bulk bookings. Every seat was sold out here.
A black marketer at Cinemax Sion, however, sold us a ticket for Star City’s Friday 9.30 pm show for Rs 500 (a mark up of Rs 420), even though the theatre had clearly declared the show as House Full before booking began a couple of days ago.
|Cinemax managers claim corporate bookings, done a month ago, lead to their sold out shows|
At Cinemax Sion, tickets were sold out on Sunday at 9.30 am (when advance booking opened) for the Friday and Saturday evening and night shows. However, when we reached the theatre Friday evening, touts sold us tickets at Rs 500 a piece for the Saturday 8 pm sold-out show.
Sales personnel and managers argued that private companies had block booked seats. Manager Sajid Khan said, “Companies send in requests a month prior for block booking. Because they book the whole theatre, we keep provisions for them. This isn’t in our control. It is a policy made by the head office. We aren’t keeping these tickets for ourselves. We only keep 15 tickets for the management in case a police constable or celebrity asks us for tickets last minute.”
When we asked him how black marketers were selling the same tickets days later, he said, “We hand all the tickets to the the companies. We can’t monitor what they do beyond that. We are trying to curb black marketing.” Defending himself, the manager even offered to show us police complaints the theatre had filed against touts in the area.
|Negotiating with black marketers outside Metro Adlabs|
The story repeated itself at Metro Adlabs. All tickets were corporate-booked in advance but we bought them in black on Friday evening, down the road from the multiplex and got two Rs 200 tickets for Rs 450 each for the Saturday 9 pm show. A theatre employee watching us even checked our tickets for authenticity.
Theatre manager at Metro Adlabs, Rohan Bhansali said, “Corporates pre-book through our marketing department for clients and employees. All other sales happen through ticket windows, Internet and call centres. If someone asks for more than six to eight tickets, we ask for a document to ensure credibility and make sure they’re not misusing them. Despite all these checks, if corporates or others can’t make it for these bookings, they pass the tickets on, even though they know that these might be pilfered.”
|The charts are Inox were almost fully booked on Sunday morning at 10 am|
People arrived at 9 am, some even in their pyjamas, to witness the opening of ticket sales. The boys behind the ticket counter did a collective and loud countdown before releasing tickets at 10 am on Sunday to screens that were ironically already booked, save for the first two rows. The boys behind the counter said that they had been sold via telebooking.
General Manager Umesh Bhikchandani said, “Staffing patterns and the shift system at the call centre mean that they start at 9.30 am. Call traffic is heaviest at that time, between 9.30 and 10 am, perhaps because people just get into offices then or at home, housewives finish up housework around that time.
Theatre rules specify that the physical windows open at 10 am. Also, we block out seats for internet and sms bookings beforehand and they appear sold on the chart. And the whole house is available for telebooking. Yes, it’s probably unfair…”