For residents of Sulurpetta, a small town in southern Andhra Pradesh, the biggest spectacle would be looking eastwards towards the horizon whenever ISRO launched satellite-laden rockets.
As the closest town to India’s rocket launch pad, the locals of Sullurpetta would either flock to the edges of backwaters in the east leading to Sriharikota or climb atop their terraces to watch the fiery ascent of the PSLVs and GSLVs. But the rocket show may not be the only big thing happening in Sullurpetta any longer. The reason? The town, 80 km North of Chennai, is now home to first of its kind premium large-format screen.
V Epiq, the new cinema hall does justice to its name by sporting a 100X54 feet flat-screen claimed to be the largest in South Asia.
Constructed at a cost of Rs.10 crores, the 650-seater EPIQ screen packages state of the art technology like 4K RGB laser projection, Dolby Atmos Immersive Audio and a 1:1.89 aspect ratio that is optimised for both scope and flat movies with razor-sharp images, higher brightness, increased contrast and a wider colour gamut. The theatre was launched with the screening of “Saaho” on August 30, starring Prabhas and Shraddha.
“There may be similar premium large format cinema screens in China and South Korea, but this would definitely be the first in India,” said Senthil Kumar co-founder of Qube Cinema, which has installed the EPIQ screen.
While Qube will create specially mastered Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs) for select movies to be screened on EPIQ screens, there is also a suggestion for producers and cinematographers wanting to screen their films in the large format. “If cinematographers can shoot by providing for the 1:1.89 aspect ratio, their films can be screened in both standard and large formats,” pointed out R. Madhi who shot ‘Saaho’.
More importantly, what EPIQ does is bring in the immersive cinema experience to small towns which are otherwise short of high-quality entertainment. Vamsi Krishna, who owns the V Celluloid group and has taken his group’s 38 modern cinema screens to 17 towns in Andhra and Telangana within four years, is confident that cinema will expand only through smaller towns in India.
“Since big cities are already choked with multiplexes and combined with high land and rental costs, acquiring new screens is becoming less profitable. So, smaller towns and suburbs of metros will be the places to go. For example, this EPIQ screen would attract not just the town folks of Sullurpetta but also the residents of Sriharikota and Sri City (a large industrial and educational hub) located close by. Even residents of Chennai could drive down during the weekends to enjoy the cinema in this format,” said Vamsi. The EPIQ format would provide a new benchmark for film production and audience experience in India he said.
The outside view of the EPIQ auditorium.
Providing the real big screen experience is another way to keep the audiences flocking to cinema halls when they are being tempted by first day releases on their TV screens by the likes of Jio Fiber. “It would also make sense to convert existing large single screens in cities to EPIQ format. By this formula we hope to have EPIQ screens in Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and in Kerala in the next two years,” said Jayendra Panchapakesan of Qube cinema.
Trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai says Indian movies are bound to be influenced by post ‘Baahubali’ effect with action-packed genres shot at huge expense likely to dominate in the near future. “Also, EPIQ has arrived in India at a time when dubbed Hollywood movies are raking in more than Indian movies. So, the cinema owners investing in this format can be assured of a steady supply of audiences,” he predicted.