Selling cinema the way Steven Spielberg created it, to Coke-sipping and butter-popcorn audiences willing to pay Rs 150 each for velvet seats and state-of-the-art acoustics, multiplexes have arrived in India. This at a time when Bollywood is in the dumps, the tax structure is investment-unfriendly and old theatres are crumbling. It's enough to make you ask why are INOX Leisure, PVR (Priya Village Roadshow) and 3 C's sinking big money in suede seats? Says Shishir Baijal, ceo, inox Leisure: "The key to multiplex success is rightsizing. While the average cinema hall of yesterday accommodated 1,000 viewers, our auditoria are built for capacities varying from 150-400 to let people choose from more movies." Also, at these cineplexes flexibility and online bookings usher in a whole new experience.
PVR, a joint venture with Australia's Village Roadshow, which operates three multiplexes in Delhi and plans 48 more, are pioneers of the staggered-size strategy. "Depending on box-office performance we move a film from large to small audis which keeps the halls full," says Arun Anand, CEO, PVR. INOX plans to put up four-screen cinemas in prime locations across India. Their first project in Pune, a four-screen, Rs 37-crore multiplex, opened this May. Others will follow soon. This November, INOX will host the International Film Festival in Pune.
Appetite also plays a significant part. Raj Chopra, CMD, Competent Film Enterprises, whose 3 C's Cine Court opened last month, says: "Food and entertainment are complementary." Unlike other multiplexes around which McDonald's and Barista have clustered, Chopra chooses to take the cinema outing to a whole new floor. The Food Court packs in Dosa Express, Barista, Tikka A Wrap and Diva Cafe, letting kids and parents eat a meal of their choice at the same table. Between shows, whose rents rake in Rs 13 lakh plus earnings from publicity, Chopra nets Rs 24 lakh a month. And giving a thumbs up the multiplexes are filmmakers themselves. As Bollywood filmmaker Anurag Kashyap says: "There's certainly a trend among some filmmakers to make multiplex kind of films that don't pretend to be blockbusters."
Pramila N. Phatarphekar with Manu Joseph