Open Sesame! say multiplex operators as viewers gear up to return to the big screen

Exhibition industry expects to be operational across the nation by November end in a new avatar, adhering to the government guidelines

Cinema Halls, Multiplex Operators. Exhibition Industry
Despite cinema halls opening from October 15, industry experts believe that the footfall will be light and will grow slowly in numbers.

Starting today multiplex operators will open their doors to the quintessential Indian viewer. At present, 12 states including Delhi, West Bengal, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have permitted theatres to operate. However, states such as Maharashtra have issued statements saying that the theatres will remain shut till October 31, to say the least. The dilly-dally has led to a staggered opening of theatres. Interestingly, the industry finds this to be a perfect solution. “Staggered opening is actually good for us as it gives us time to strategise and get the theatres ready state-wise in terms maintaining hygiene standards as well as content. However, we are confident that by mid-November or by end of November, cinema halls will open in all states,” PV Sunil, managing director, Carnival Cinemas, told BrandWagon Online.

According to industry estimates, the exhibition industry has already lost anywhere between Rs 8,500 crore – Rs 9,000 crore, post lockdown. This however, does not include revenue earned from the sale of food and beverage. Moreover, companies continue to incur fixed costs. Even as film theatres are gearing up to open, until pan India operations begin, it is likely to run a combination of old films and some of the films recently released on OTT platforms. Reliance Entertainment has postponed the release of Sooryavanshi to early next year. Furthermore, it is believed that Ranveer Singh starrer 83 may release in December around Christmas if footfall rises. “No one can predict when big-budget movies such as Sooryavanshi and 83 will premiere in the cinema halls. At this point, it’s a question of survival for the industry,” Komal Nahta, film critic and trade analysts, said.

As per the standard operating procedures (SOPs) released by the government, cinema halls will function under 50% seating capacity while serving only packaged food which will not be allowed to be delivered inside the hall. However, industry experts believe that this might not necessarily garner a huge loss. “Cinema occupancy in our country has been hovering around 26%, which is skewed towards weekends and evening shows. With everyone working from the concept of weekends no longer exists. Hence, on weekdays we may get more people frequenting the cinema halls than usual,” Pramod Kumar, chief growth and strategy officer, PVR Limited, said adding that reaching 26% capacity from 50% is easily attainable.

Despite cinema halls opening from October 15, industry experts believe that the footfall will be light and will grow slowly in numbers. With people already frequenting malls and restaurants, consumers shopping in the malls have a high chance of also coming to cinema theatres. “While footfall will be slow in the beginning, we are expecting a rise in footfall in November. Together, Diwali and Christmans should bring back the footfall to kind of near normal,” Sunil highlighted.

Moreover, the exhibition industry will have to restartegise the content strategy as a lot of movies have been acquired by the over-the-top platforms. Incidentally, Amazon Prime on Friday announced nine new movies premiering on the platforms. While PVR plans to launch the movie after the cusp period (a month after the movie is released on the OTT platform) Carnival cinemas is following on the footsteps of television by bringing back old high-grossing Bollywood movies. “We are also planning to run previous blockbuster movies such as PK, Bahubali, so that the theatres are filled up and shows are running. Further, we have our own content “Mere Desh Ki Dharti” which will also be running in the theatres,” Sunil added.

Interestingly, Besides following the government’s SOPs, cinema theatres claimed to have adopted various measures as well as new techniques to maximise footfall besides upping the game on consumer experience. For instance, Carnival Cinemas plans to use their in-house frozen food segment to be repackaged and made available to consumers. Similarly, Inox Leisure plans to heavily invest in digital by going hands-free. “There will be a lot of focus on the digital way of life. We will completely rely on e-tickets instead of paper tickets. Each guest will receive an SMS, which would be a fully loaded all-in-one SMS. This SMS comes with four different links, one which allows consumers to check in with your QR code, second, which shows the auditorium’s seat chart and the location of the seat. The third link will provide consumers access to the F&B menu to place their order and the fourth link allows them to download your complete e-ticket with all the details,” Alok Tandon, CEO, Inox Leisure, said. Furthermore, Inox Leisure also plans to innovate with private screenings, where families or smaller groups of guests can book the entire auditorium and enjoy the content of their choice.

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First published on: 15-10-2020 at 10:00 IST