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One big problem with drive-ins is that they haven’t discovered the perfect model to license new or recent movie releases. (iStock)
One big problem with drive-ins is that they haven’t discovered the perfect model to license new or recent movie releases. (iStock)

Drive-in theatres may get their moment under the stars

Drive-in cinemas have long struggled to find an audience in India but their fortunes may turn post lockdown

NEW DELHI : Movie-goers may not want to be in closed auditoriums with strangers when they flock back to theatres once the lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus is lifted. This could result in major loss for traditional theatres but may be an opportunity for open-air, drive-in cinemas, which have long remained on the margins of India’s entertainment ecosystem with only a handful of properties across the country.

The few players that do exist such as Sunset Drive-in Cinema in Ahmedabad, Prarthana Beach Drive-in Theatre in Chennai, Under the Stars in Bengaluru, and Gurgaon Talkies in the national capital region have found it tough to discover an audience so far but their fortunes may finally change.

“With the future of traditional multiplexes uncertain, our prospects look bright and the trend of drive-in theatres could really take off post the pandemic," said Abhijit Shah, co-founder of Under the Stars, which he started with two friends in November 2017, trying to capitalize on the pleasant Bengaluru weather.

Most cities in India are either too warm or too cold for most of the year and that does not help the cause of open-air screenings, Shah said. Bengaluru is an exception and the company collaborates with different properties such as cricket or football grounds mostly on the outskirts of the city and brings in food trucks to complement the experience. “Over time, we’ve also realized that not everyone owns a car. So we make arrangements for bean bags and chairs," Shah said. Under the Stars works with a projector, mobile screen and loudspeakers, he said.

“People love the concept and our average occupancy range is 80-90%," said Shah whose ticket prices hover around 300-350. Shah has received around 10 queries to rent equipment for screenings in the past two weeks, including from small towns such as Aurangabad and Raipur. The interest is evident in a post-pandemic world, he said.

However, a major problem with drive-in cinemas is that they haven’t discovered the perfect model to license new or recent movie releases. Under the Stars usually plays cult classics such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or Jab We Met.

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