Photo: HT
Photo: HT

Multiplex owners bullish about Mumbai’s 24X7 services

  • Malls and eateries in the non-residential areas of Mumbai will now be allowed to stay open through the night
  • Some expect an upside of 3-4% in revenues from the city thanks to the extra hours multiplexes will now be functional

NEW DELHI : The city that never sleeps is now about to take its night life to a whole new level. As newly relaxed laws allowing restaurants, fast food outlets and shopping malls in Mumbai to remain open round the clock kick in, cinema exhibition chains are more than happy, though they are yet to work the logistics out. Some expect an upside of 3-4% in revenues from the city thanks to the extra hours they will now be functional.

“This is definitely a good initiative for a city like Mumbai that never sleeps," said Mohan Umrotkar, chief executive officer, Carnival Cinemas adding that the city accounts for nearly 15-20% of the chain’s business. This is a trend that can be observed across recent hits, in case of blockbusters like Kabir Singh and Tanhaji-The Unsung Warrior, more than 30% of the total net box office earnings have come from Mumbai.

Malls and eateries in the non-residential areas of Mumbai will now be allowed to stay open through the night. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s cabinet cleared a proposal to this effect last week. The exemption, however, will not apply to restaurants that serve alcohol, which means pubs, bars and liquor shops will follow a 1.30 am deadline.

Umrotkar said the move will positively impact both big and small films with extra showcasing. While a lot of big-ticket films are not able to realize their full potential after the first week, with new releases competing for shows in theatres, even if there is demand for them. However, the real beneficiaries will be the small, non-Hindi local language films that often do not find space in prime slots.

“I’m sure chains will experiment with extra shows for say niche regional or European cinema that can emerge as value added services. Of course, it could be a different kind of clientele, of maybe 50-80 people in a theatre," said Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas.

Both Puri and Umrotkar said late-night or early morning shows will require differential pricing to make it an attractive proposition for people to step out at that hour, especially if they are coming directly from a bar or party, having already spent money. Umrotkar estimated ticket rates to be at least 7.5-10% lower than what the chain commands for regular shows.

To be sure, all chains unanimously agree the move will only work for properties in specific areas. Pramod Arora, chief growth and strategy officer, PVR Ltd said the chain would exercise the 24X7 option only in select areas where BPO (business process outsourcing) or KPO (knowledge process outsourcing) offices and late-night family restaurants abound.

To be sure, there will be challenges. Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said multiplex chains could start slow to test how the move works for people, running one or two screens out of six at a particular location, for instance. But that would still mean paying a staff of 10-15 people besides electricity and security maintenance in malls.

“Safety, security and public transport would be the prime mover for the success of the initiative. The expenses including staff and maintenance cost would go up and the real benefit shall need to be evaluated over the first six months," Arora said. He added that this is a progressive move by the government which may have far reaching benefits for the retail industry in the long run since real estate assets can be put to more use, thereby bringing in efficiency.

“A retail store by the day can convert to a restaurant or a lounge by the evening and stay open till the morning. There can be many more examples of co-sharing spaces," Arora said.

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