Coming soon: a multiplex in all cities

Updated: Jan 23 2007, 05:30am hrs
By the end of 2007, there will be almost 50 multiplexes in Tier-II and Tier-III cities in India. In 2005, the top multiplexes had only 200 screens. In 2006, the number of screens had doubled to 400. No wonder everyones trying to cash in on the entertainment industrys double-digit growth

All the players have major expansion plans. We are coming up with nine multiplexes across India, says Shravan Shroff, MD, Fame Adlabs. Fame plans to come up with 34 screens across Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Kolkata, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and Patiala. The one in Kolkata is the most expensive as far as investment is concerned. We are coming up with 1,500 seats there and have invested Rs 90,000-95,000 per seat. We hope to recover this in the next three years, he adds.

PVR has come up with low-cost multiplexes in Aurangabad and Latur. The tickets in these multiplexes will be priced at Rs 40-60, says Ashish Saksena, COO, PVR Mumbai. By the end of 2009, Cinemax hopes to set up 141 screens across India.

The year 2007 will see a lot of retail outlets coming up. There are about 200-250 malls coming up and all of them will have a multiplex. Even smaller cities will have multiplexes, says Alok Tandon, COO, Inox, Mumbai. We are expanding in a big way. Now Inox will make its presence felt in Jodhpur, Nagpur, Faridabad and Hyderabad to name a few while Imax is looking at cities like Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Surat and Agra. We are looking at 100% growth, says Tushar Dingra, CEO, Imax Adlabs.

Experts believe that this upward swing is due to the improved quality of content. The year 2006 has witnessed a slew of big hits, keeping cash registers ringing with releases like Dhoom 2, Krrish, Lage Raho Munna Bhai, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Rang De Basanti, Don, Fanna, Omkara, Phir Hera Pheri, and Golmaal. Good content and the innovative marketing adopted by producers helped the movies at the box-office. Even a small budget film like Khosla Ka Ghosla was marketed well, says Devang Sampat, GM, marketing and sales, Cinemax.

This year is expected to be even bigger. With movies like Salaam-E-Ishq (releasing this week), Vidhu Vinod Chopras Eklavya, RGV Ke Sholay, Nishabd, again from the RGV camp, a sequel to Ghayal, the Abhishek Bachchan-starrer Drona and seven YashRaj films slated for release, industry players are keeping their fingers crossed. The year has started on a positive note with Mani Ratnams Guru doing well in most cities.

The year 2006 has been a good year not only for exhibitors but for producers also, says Dingra of Imax. Agrees Saksena of PVR, In 2006 we had releases almost every week. Otherwise, the pre-festival time is generally a slack period for us. The year saw almost a 25% increase in the net movie collection for PVR. Says Tandon of Inox, The total turnover in the year 2005 was Rs 63.7 crore and in 2006, we had crossed that mark by September. Up to September 2006, our turnover was Rs 81 crore. The exhibition industry in India is being pegged at Rs 1,000 crore and six players dominate the market. The top six players contribute to 400 screens in the country, says an industry expert. The growth rate expected in the coming years is about 35-40 %. However, the players are quick to add that India is highly under-screened. In France, there are 75 screens for a population of 10 lakh, in the US 102 screens, in the UK 35-40 screens, but in India there are only six to eight screens for the same population. There is, therefore, a lot of scope for growth.

So, what's the buzz in 2007 We can look forward to film-based marketing and brand-based marketing for multiplexes and tactical advertising, says Gautam Dutta, CMO, PVR. Says Dingra of Imax, This year will see a far more evolved cinema. New formats and new technology will be brought in and an effort will be made to reach out to new cities this will help us combat piracy.

Multiplexes are already exploring new ways of attracting audiences. Fame Adlabs have come up with digital cinema in one of its multiplexes in Malad. Consumers today are very demanding and this new technology will give them a whole new experience. Also, it will help eliminate piracy, says Shroff of Fame. The new technology costs about Rs 40-45 lakh, compared to Rs 15 lakh for an analog projector. If you want to catch the movie in digital format, be ready to shell out more money. The prices of the tickets are expected to go up here by 10-15%.

Multiplexes are devising new ways of ensuring a better top-of-mind recall and an increase in footfalls. F&B spends per head have gone up. This has pushed our sales up 75%, says Shroff of Fame. The theatre was offering a vacation package for watching a movie with a food combo. Recently, they introduced a variety of international beverages, ranging from juices, coffees, chocolate drinks to aerated fruit drinks.

Meanwhile, PVR is coming up with its own innovations. People love to spend time at a multiplex and it is emerging as a family entertainment zone, says Dutta. Some of the promotions include inviting a filmmaker to interact with the audience. We also have a show dedicated to senior citizens, generally an afternoon show, adds Dutta. We have only one target audience and that is the movie audience and we would like to give him a brilliant cinema viewing experience.

But what about the cost For high-end activity like what we undertook for Don, it cost us around Rs 25 lakh and for medium-end activity, it would cost us around Rs 8-12 lakh, says Dutta. As long as multiplex owners are willing to splurge that sort of money, it will be happy viewing for movie buffs across the country.