After a lacklustre Q2, FY23, PVR anticipates a spurt in footfall in Q3. The firm is investing in upgrading its screens while it launches offers and promotions to woo audiences. In this interview to Akanksha Nagar, Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director, PVR, discusses if younger viewers are showing signs of Bollywood fatigue. Edited excerpts:
While PVR’s consolidated net loss for Q2 of FY23 reduced from the year-ago period, Bollywood movies haven’t been doing so well in theatres. How are you coping?
Q1 brought back people to the cinemas, and we were back to 90% of the pre-pandemic numbers in terms of admissions. Q2, however, was underwhelming in terms of admissions and it was really the content that didn’t resonate with the audiences. The movies that released in Q2 seemed promising on paper, but didn’t perform well. Like Shamshera, Laal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan. The only film that did well was Brahmastra in September, which, however, didn’t help us much.
Having said that, we’ve had a great start to Q3, Diwali releases have done well and, once again, South Indian films have been a major revelation. The line-up for November and December looks good — these two months have become a sort of festive period when people come out and we see a growth in consumption. We also have a lot of offers for customers, members, and privileged customers. All these factors will contribute to people coming back to the cinemas. In terms of admissions in Q3, we are hopeful of reaching numbers close to those in Q1.
In general, the food and beverage (F&B) business contributes about 30% to the total revenue, 60% comes from ticket sales and 10% from advertising. I don’t see the breakup of the revenue pie changing going forward. Under F&B, the online contribution is minute, hardly 1% or 2% of the total business. During the pandemic we tied up with Zomato and Swiggy and did home deliveries of the hero items. That is growing and we want to expand that side of the business.
Is ticket pricing a party-pooper?
First, our pricing is dynamic. We are looking at promotions and opening films at a lower price. Pricing as a tool is something that we now are using more aggressively and we are coming up with different packages and promotions to attract customers. For instance, Goodbye was opened at
150; we did a National Cinema Day at75 a ticket. Second, our loyalty programme now has 17.5 million customers and we are using this base to attract more customers. We have a huge database of customers and we are using technology to talk to them directly and give them offers through emailers, SMSes, WhatsApps, based on their previous viewing habit.
Is it the expansion of streaming platforms or is it Bollywood fatigue among younger generations that is impacting walk-ins at theatres?
There’s no paradigm shift in the viewing habits of Gen Z or millennials, otherwise what would explain the success of Brahmastra or Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and other movies that have done well in the last two quarters? I believe the content has to resonate with the audiences and if they like the content, they will go to theatres. There is so much discussion around content, and no one really knows what the answer is. I believe that because we are now exposed to such high-quality content through OTT channels, consumers have got used to a certain standard. If someone wants audiences to get out of the house, they must serve really good content.
Tell us about your plans. You have a target to open 125 new screens this fiscal year…
We’ve opened 24 screens already and should open around 100 in the next two quarters. In the next fiscal year, we should add around 110 more screens — an increase of 10%. We are targeting a mix of both metros and tier-I and II. We’ve got four new properties coming up in Bangalore, three in Mumbai, two new properties in Gurgaon, and our first in Jaipur, Dehradun, Ajmer, Lucknow, and Trivandrum. Trivandrum is a 12-screen complex, and we’re doing all formats there including IMAX and Luxe, which are our high-end theatres and we will have 4DX. We have a new technology, ICE, which we will introduce in the next couple of months. We’re also upgrading a lot of our screens to RGB laser projector systems, we’re upgrading our sound from 5.1 to 7.1 surround system and we’re also upgrading many theatres to RealD 3D.
In India, we only have six screens per million compared to 26 in Japan and 13 in China. So, there’s great potential to grow across the country.
In 2023, we’ll focus a lot more on tier-II and III markets. South India has a lot of growth potential, given its amazing movie-going culture.
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