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Bengaluru: Multiplex chain PVR Ltd plans to open more screens in south India, taking advantage of a growing number of malls in the region and a vibrant multi-lingual regional film industry.

It will add close to 40% of the roughly 500 new screens planned in the next three years in markets such as Bengaluru, Kochi, Mysore and Chennai. PVR plans to touch a 1,000 screens by 2018 in total. In south India, PVR currently operates about 120 or about 25% of the total 491 screens in 44 cities across the country.

“PVR took a call to seriously invest in this market as we try to capture good malls that are coming up in the region," said Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director of PVR Ltd, who was in Bangalore on Monday for the opening of a new multiplex. Currently the New Delhi-based company has 57 screens in the city and it will touch 63 by early 2016.

To be sure, south India largely remains a single-screen market, with number of multi-screen cinemas much lower compared to north and west India (that average at about 35-40%). “Next two years," said Nitin Sood, chief financial officer at PVR, “will be big growth drivers for south Indian market - especially for multiplexes."

He said that apart form Bengaluru, markets in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have “a lot of catching up to do, when it comes to viewing movies in multi-screen movie halls".

“I think our focus in South has gone up—the biggest incentive being that more shopping centres are being delivered in the market. Also, there is an advantage of multi-lingual cinema here," Sood added.

The southern Indian film industry continues to expand every year, paced by more movie releases in Tamil and Telugu. According to an annual media and entertainment report by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and KPMG released in March, regional movies releases touched an all-time high in 2014. During the year, more Tamil films (287) were released than Hindi movies (216). A total of 255 Telugu movies were released in the same year.

In 2015, multilingual movie Baahubali-The Beginning, directed by Telugu filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli, raked in 600 crore at box office. The film was shot in Telugu and Tamil simultaneously and dubbed in Malayalam and Hindi.

For PVR, 25% of its income currently comes from regional cinema and of it 20-23% are from movies released in south India.

India’s largest multiplex chain acquired DLF Ltd’s DT Cinemas for 500 crore in June to expand in north India. “As a result of the proposed acquisition, PVR will have a presence in 44 cities with 115 multiplexes and 506 screens," PVR informed the stock exchanges. However, the company has no acquisition plans in south India.

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