"We totally buy into the India story"

Written by Suman Tarafdar | Updated: Jun 1 2009, 04:32am hrs
Barbara Mori is not the only current Mexican connection in Bollywood. The Indian cinema experience looks set to get an overhaul, with a Mexican touch. Not just is the content changing fairly rapidly, the way to view it also has some game changing moves on way as the first international exhibitor, Cinpolis, from Mexico, enters India with the promise of introducing concepts such as stadium-seating, gourmet offerings and other exclusive services. Javier Sotomayor, (no relation to his famous namesake, the Cuban high jumper, he is quick to clarify) Strategy Head, was in India last week with the companys initial announcement.

And indeed the plans are ambitious. In an already crowded market complicated by revenue sharing standoff between the film producers and the exhibitors, Cinpolis plans a pan India presence. It has already signed to open 110 screens spread over eight Indian cities. And wants to reach 500 screens by 2016. Though he refuses to disclose where the ones that are signed up are, he says, I am sure all the locations are profitable as we have been very stringent in choosing the malls we are going to be located in. Large cities are top priority, and right location, right size thats a mall of over 5,00,000 ft2, good access and parking besides good mall management are crucial, he lists out. Well, given that many of the malls themselves are in a spot of a bother, this is a claim that time will test.

Cinepolis, whose multiplexes are expected to have 10 to 14 screens per location, plans to invest $7,00,000 per screen in the country and the first screen is expected in the second half of 2009. Even in places like Gurgaon, where there is ample supply, we will be offering a different product and expanding the market, he asserts. He is not bothered about the current industry stand off, but will be part of the exhibitors body once the first screens are operational, he says.

Though this is the furthest we could get from our base in Mexico, we believe that the Indian market has lots of potential. He has been traveling across, and discovering that to succeed, it is not Indianisation, but localisation that shall be the key challenge as India is like lots of countries within a single one. India is going to be largest expansion for the chain, which also operates in El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Though it has a range of cinema halls, including a model for the rural areas, Cinpolis is best known for its premium end halls. With an average of 80 seats (the regular theatres have 200), ticket prices that are double the average prices for regular halls and innovative design, which includes steeper slopes, more leg room, enhanced F&B offerings and no bad seats, Cinpolis VIP might just take cinema hall experience to new levels of pleasure.

Cinpolis, headquartered in Mexico, has the worlds fifth largest film theatre circuit, operating 2,000 screens in six countries. While Moris Kites may be among the first films to be shown at the multiplex, the chains complete buying into the India story means the name will be familiar one for most Indians sooner or later.