New Delhi: Earlier this year, PVR Cinemas launched its online platform, Vkaao.com that allows viewers to select a movie from the exhibition chain’s library and organize a show at a date and time convenient for them.
The social, crowd-based strategy, is however, one of the many offerings the entertainment company has come up with in the past one-and-a-half years that go beyond regular theatricals.
Apart from varied theatre-oriented experiences like Director’s Cut (a luxury arm featuring 3D-enabled digital projection technology, surround sound, and personalized food and seating facilities), Gold Class and ECX (enhanced cinema experience), the latest initiative is to introduce the audience to favourable deals as per specific needs. While Wednesdays have exclusive shows for women on offer, a Monday would typically be devoted to senior citizens and other days or locations for expats which showcase Indian films with English subtitles.
“Different people have different needs and we’ve tried to feed those needs while creating these sub-brands. The idea is to service audiences across various stratas and segments of society," said Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures. “We have no editorial control, we basically have to play the film the way it is supplied by the producer and distributor. Given this limitation, whatever we could do is what we’ve tried to do."
The strategies, Gianchandani said, stem from the company’s culture of continuously innovating with the objective of becoming more relevant to its audiences. For instance, women, in certain pockets of India that remain conservative, feel that they need to watch only all-women shows. Or expats in cities like Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru don’t understand the local language but have a need for entertainment nevertheless that is fulfilled by the fact that all Indian films-Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, are available with English subtitles.
Further, there are no-intermission shows available in a country that swears by breaks even for Hollywood films.
Usually, a Tuesday or Wednesday is a super-saver day when ticket prices are dropped significantly for the benefit of students or large families from lower income groups, thereby building on the ultimate aim of getting more people into theatres.
“In spite of the fact that we’ve been doing well year on year, we have a lot of unutilized capacity on weekdays which tends to lie between 35-40%," Gianchandani said.
“On an average that means unutilized capacity of 55-60%. Our objective is to get more people into the theatres and at greater frequency, and that is the genesis of all these strategies."
To be sure, while Gianchandani emphasized that good-quality multiplexes have been gaining ground in India, data for 2016 reveals serious crisis for the exhibition business. On 12 January, 2017, Mint reported that box office collections for 2016 dropped by 10-15% as compared to 2015. In a scenario like that, strategies like PVR’s make even more sense for an audience dominated by the youth that does not want to watch at least Hindi films in cinema halls, say industry experts.
“Across the world in American or other mature markets, contribution of theatricals (to overall movie earnings) is not more than 20-35%. India is the only market where the figure lies between 60-70%," said Utpal Acharya, founder of film production, distribution and marketing company Indian Film Studios. “India, however, is also moving towards those developed markets thanks to new technologies and people’s dependence on hand-held devices. The ultimate goal (of such strategies) is to increase footfalls and revenue but with a different way of putting audiences inside cinemas."
Acharya estimates such initiatives bring in less than 5% of PVR’s overall revenue currently, restricted as they are to the metros though they are bound to catch on with youngsters remaining glued to digital platforms.
“It’s difficult to point out the exact incremental occupancy because of each initiative but we can say that one big factor contributing to us enjoying 4-7 % higher occupancy than our closest competitor is the content-related strategy and segmentation," Gianchandani said.