BIG Cinema buys 188 screens in 27 US cities

BIG Cinema buys 188 screens in 27 US cities

Washington: In an effort to cash in on the craze for Bollywood films among the South Asian population, which is estimated to be nearly four million in the US, the Big Cinemas has acquired 188 screens in the country and is planning to expand further.

In little over a year, the Big Cinemas has acquired a chain of 188 screens in more than two dozen cities in the US, covering almost all the major centers of South Asian population from Manhattan and Edison in East Coast to Los Angeles and San Jose in California and Chicago in the Mid-west.

By the end of the year, it plans to acquire about 250 screens across the US and expanding to new centers of South Asian population like Florida and Texas, says Anil Arjun, CEO of Reliance Media Works.

BIG Cinemas is a division of Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Media Works and a member of Reliance ADA Group.

The company now accounts for 20-35% of Hindi features box office collections and over 70% of Tamil and Telegu box office collections from the US.

Noting that North America is an attractive market for Indian films (Hindi, Tamil and Telugu) with nearly four million south Asians with strong affinity to Indian films, Arjun said film distribution in the US has been highly fragmented and disorganized.

“Limited number of prints, inadequate marketing and promotion and exhibition in screens that are inadequate in terms of quality of ambience," he told PTI.

This previously meant that the penetration of a movie in terms of admits vis-a-vis the Indian population was under 9%, he said.

“That has now changed and there has been a major organized play in the marketing, promotion and distribution of films in the US," Arjun said.

Talking about its future plans, Arjun said BIG Cinemas is setting up standalone properties and cinemas in malls in the United States. Existing properties are being taken over and being renovated by BIG Cinemas.

Arjun said not all its screens show Indian movies all the time. “It is mix and match."

Close to 130 screens have Hollywood movies, while the balance 50 screens run Indian movies. “There is no dedicated property for India or American movies," he said.

One of the recent big hits of the BIG Cinemas in the US was ‘3 Idots’, which generated massive revenue of $6.7 million, he said, adding that it is almost double in size of the past collections ‘Om Shanti Om’ at $3.6 million and ‘Jodha Akbar’ $3.4 million.

He hoped that the growth momentum would continue as BIG Cinemas moves on to new areas.

‘3 Idiots’ not only released at a record number of 200 prints, but was also screened in locations where Bollywood movies were not played before that includes places like Tennessee, Nashville, Bartlett (Memphis) and Pennsylvania.

In fact, the release of Aamir Khan starrer ‘3 Idiots’, gave a direction for other Bollywood releases -- evident from the release of Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘My Name Is Khan’, which grossed approximately $3.37 million in first two weeks.