Update: BookMyShow execs remain unavailable for comment, but a BookMyShow PR representative has shared the following statement on the issue:

“G.O. Ms. 110 dated 19.02.2009 (the order passed by the Home Department) has been stayed by an order of the High Court passed in several writ petitions filed by entities involved in online movie ticketing and Bigtree has a status quo order dated 24 March 2009 in its favor by the Hon’ble High Court of Andhra Pradesh pursuant to which online movie ticketing was being continued to be provided by BookmyShow. The matter is subjudice.

However, for reasons best known to the State Government, despite the stay granted by the Hon’ble High Court, the home department has taken a view that certain websites do not have valid interim orders of the High Court and are harassing the officers of such entities. This is not rite (sic). Bookmyshow was running under the status quo granted by the Hon’ble High Court. The reports appearing are incomplete to the extent that whilst there is a mention of the monopolistic nature of G.O. Ms. 110, the reports are silent that the constitutional validity has been challenged and the Hon’ble High Court has stayed the same till final disposal of the cases before it. Further, we fully agree with the questions raised by media including, inter alia, as to the motive and intent of the State Government in issuing a privilege to just one entity and as to why the Hon’ble High Court’s status quo order is not being honored by the State Government.”

Note: the G.O. (Government Order) in question may be downloaded here

11th May 2010: BookMyShow, Bigtree Entertainment’s online ticket booking site has halted bookings in Andhra Pradesh, reports Pluggd.in; Bookmyshow has also communicated the same information on its homepage and on Twitter, it says: “Due to statutory reasons (Govt. of AP) all online ticketing in Andhra Pradesh is taken off the web till further notice.”

Why would a state government issue orders to stop online booking of movie tickets? No details, other than the above communication have been given by BookMyShow: it’s CEO Ashish Hemrajani hasn’t responded to SMS, calls and email), and we were told by BookMyShow’s marketing department that they would get back to us; we’ve been not been able to locate any notification on the Andhra Pradesh governments website either.

In the meantime, we’ve checked and noticed that companies like PVR and Reliance ADA Group’s Big Cinemas, which operate multiplex chains have stopped online booking of movie tickets for  movie theatres in Andhra Pradesh. However, other online ticket aggregators such as TicketPlease and Kyazoonga continue to sell tickets online. So what is going on?

Pluggd.in reports that the Andhra Pradesh Government had passed an order (pdf) allowing a single company, Galaxy Entertainers, to sell tickets online. The order, GO 110, dated 19th February 2009, says:

– Galaxy Entertainers Pvt. Ltd. has been allowed to operate on-line ticket bookings in the state, for a period of 10 years, which may be extended by another 5 years with mutual consent from the Government.

– 50% of all tickets in theatres except those belonging to the lower classes must be made available through the online booking system. This means that all cinema halls need to make available 50% of their inventory to the government appointed agency. the theatres also need to make available a kiosk/ticket dispatching counter for the agency at their premises.

– The government fixed a service charge of Rs.6 per ticket. The agency was required to provide a single URL and a single phone number for booking and cancellation of tickets for all cinemas covered under the system.

The Governement of Andhra Pradesh in its order states that it believes that the move will facilitate correct disclosure of sales volumes and prevent tax evasion. It is also of the view that appointing one agency to book tickets is better than having multiple agencies.

Some questions, though, remain unanswered:

– Why is the Andhra Pradesh government being monopolistic by allowing only one company to offer online ticketing services?
– What gives the Andhra Pradesh government the right to decide which ticketing agency will be the sole concessionaire  for private cinema halls?
– Why is this order limited to online movie ticketing only? Why not other online ticketing?
– Why is this order limited to online movie ticketing only? Why not offline ticketing?
– If this order was issued in 2009, why is it only now that ticketing has been blocked?
– Why is BookMyShow silent on the issue, beyond a perfunctory notice on its website?
– How is it that TicketPlease and KyaZoonga still offer online tickets?

Any answers?