Film ticket sales down in Ramadan

Cinemas and film distributors project a drop in UAE box-office admissions of up to 70 per cent during Ramadan, partly due to a delay in screening blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -   July 19, 2012 - Vox Cinema in Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi.   ( DELORES JOHNSON / The National )
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Cinemas and film distributors project a drop in UAE box-office admissions of up to 70 per cent during Ramadan, partly due to a delay in screening blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises.

Movies theatres usually report lower takings during Ramadan compared with the rest of the year as patrons choose to spend more time with their families and attend iftar meals.

But some forecast the decline in audiences will be greater this year as expatriates embark on their holidays and the release of summer blockbusters is delayed until Eid.

John Chahine, the general manager of the UAE branch of the film distributor Italia Film, said he expected a "70 per cent loss" in box-office takings this Ramadan.

That compares with a decline of about 63 per cent last year, according to Italia Film figures reported elsewhere.

Mr Chahine attributed the lower audiences this year to the timing of Ramadan.

"When Ramadan fell during September or October, the expats were here because of school. This year, all the expats are on vacation with their families," he said.

"The locals, because of Ramadan, don't go to the cinema. So you're missing both groups."

A delay in screening big-budget movies such as the new Batman instalment The Dark Knight Rises will also have an impact on box-office takings, said Mr Chahine.

The film earned a reported US$160.1 million (Dh588m) in its first weekend in the United States, the third-largest opening ever after The Avengers and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2.

However, the initial commercial success of The Dark Knight Rises was overshadowed by the deaths of 12 cinemagoers shot by a gunman this month at a movie theatre in Colorado.

The film is not expected to be screened in the UAE until the middle of next month.

"All the distributors tend not to release any big movies [during Ramadan]," said Mr Chahine.

"So even if you do decide to go to the cinema … you're going to see some old repeat movies or new ones that aren't really commercial."

Cinema owners expect a fall in ticket sales during this time.

"Usually the business drops 40 to 60 per cent during Ramadan," said Jean Ramia, the chief executive of the UAE-headquartered chain Grand Cinemas.

"Lots of the distributors don't tend to release their blockbuster movies," he added.

"Most of the people also spend their time out of the UAE during the summer time because of the heat or their vacations. So, obviously, this also affects the overall box-office results."

Mr Ramia said he expected the decline in cinema ticket sales to be an "average of 50 per cent" during Ramadan this year.

Cameron Mitchell, the chief executive of the UAE's VOX Cinemas chain, said ticket sales were typically slower during Ramadan although he did not provide forecasts for this year.

"Ramadan is slightly quieter. Obviously a lot of families travel and a lot of people spend time with their family during the Holy Month," he said.

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