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Home >Industry >Cinemas eye premium formats to woo audiences in a post-covid world

NEW DELHI: Movie-going audiences locked up at home for more than a year owing to the pandemic may need more than regular fare to be wooed back to cinemas.

With film lovers getting used to the convenience of watching web shows and films across languages in the comfort of their homes, cinemas and multiplexes plan to lure them back through luxury formats—smaller and more plush auditoriums, larger, high-tech screens and customized menus. For people who are willing to spend, they will offer a premium service and an intimate, safe, hygienic environment, exhibitors said.

Besides, producers and studios are lining up big tent-pole films in Hindi and southern languages, and Hollywood spectacles are also on the way, necessitating big-screen experiences, trade experts said.

“People will crave large-format experiences when all this is over. There is little doubt they have been missed and may well be back with a vengeance in a year or so as people will want more premium experiences to make up for what they have missed out on," said Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas.

While such experiences will not be for all segments, as disposable income may be tight for a while, those who can will spend on them, he said.

“People will want a break from the norm. These could translate into gourmet menus, bigger screens, VR (virtual reality) set-ups in the lobby, premium seats and service," Puri added.

The premium large format is a reason people would step out of their houses to go to the cinema, said Preetham Daniel, executive vice-president - Asia, at screen manufacturing company Harkness Screens.

“The large-screen experience, sound and visuals cannot be replicated at home," Daniel said, adding that reports from other countries have shown that customers spent money on concessions (food, 3D glasses, etc.) and other luxury experiences post reopening of cinemas. “If the same trend follows in India, which I have no doubt it would, we will see customers looking to spend more money on everything that makes for the full cinema experience, driving chains to invest in expanding their menus and pushing the boundaries on what is being offered," he said.

“Multiplexes are increasingly adding premium film-viewing formats to better cater to their core audiences with a view to getting a larger share of the pie, and this trend will continue," said Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Ltd.

In states that have a ceiling on ticket pricing, a premium format enables a multiplex operator to charge additionally over controlled ticket prices, he said.

“Against just viewing content at home, which is more a utilitarian experience, cinemas are an experiential medium and would want to stay relevant and better serve premium audiences through newer formats, larger screens, better quality projection and sound systems to give an immersive experience to audiences, which cannot be replicated at home," he said.

At PVR, 11% of the total screen count is in premium formats, and the company is looking to extend it to properties in tier-2 and 3 cities.

Among premium formats, PVR SAPPHIRE offers recliners and personalized hospitality services, P[XL] has auditoriums equipped with extra-large screens, upgraded laser projection systems and advanced Dolby Atmos sound, and PVR 4DX has high-tech motion seats and special effects, in 2D and 3D formats.

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