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Business News/ News / Hindi markets add more cinema theatres in 2023, with a 6% rise
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Hindi markets add more cinema theatres in 2023, with a 6% rise

Cinema operators across the country say skyrocketing real estate prices are the biggest hindrance in setting up new theatres.

Overall, south India has 47% of all screens in the country. As of 2023, there are 4,573 cinema screens in the south and 5,169 in the rest of the country. Premium
Overall, south India has 47% of all screens in the country. As of 2023, there are 4,573 cinema screens in the south and 5,169 in the rest of the country.

For the first time in five years, the number of movie screens across the country saw a small rise in 2023, with Hindi-speaking markets leading the growth, followed by east and south, according to an industry report.

Data from the latest Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report shows that the number of cinema screens in Hindi-speaking markets rose 6% in 2023, while those in the east rose 4%. Southern markets, in contrast, saw a 2% increase in screens.

To be sure, south India has 47% of all screens in the country, so even a lower rise in percentage terms might mean a higher rise in the absolute number of screens. As of 2023, south India—Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala—had 4,573 cinema screens, while the rest of the country had 5,169, according to the Ficci-EY report.

Significantly, following the mayhem wrought by the covid-19 pandemic on moviegoing, 2023 marked a milestone in terms of the number of screens finally surpassing 2018 levels, the report said. According to industry estimates, about 1,500-2,000 theatres, especially single screens, had shut shop across the country during the pandemic.

India’s lopsided movie screen expansion is deeply slanted towards Delhi NCR (National Capital Region), parts of Maharashtra, especially Mumbai, and cities like Bengaluru that have a tradition of multilingual viewing. On the other hand, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and the northeast remain relatively screen dark. 

Because there are fewer theatres in these states, films get only limited showcasing and returns are minimal. Many films, especially small-budget ones, are not able to release there when there aren’t enough screens available or producers don't want to spend enough on marketing and distribution in these markets.

According to the Ficci-EY report, Maharashtra had 1,044 screens as of 2023, while the figure had touched 901 in Karnataka and 1,103 in Andhra Pradesh. In contrast, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa have 149, 83 and 162 screens, respectively.

While lack of government incentives and disconnect of the audiences in small towns with contemporary movie themes are driving this skew in theatrical viewing, another major factor is expensive real estate, according to trade experts.

Cinema operators across the country agree that real estate prices have skyrocketed even in India’s smallest towns and are the biggest hindrance in building malls, which is where most major multiplexes would like to house their properties.

“The multiplex expansion in India coincided with the growth of malls since the early 2000s; in cities that had better infrastructure, policies, tax incentives and consumer appetite, the growth of malls and therefore, multiplexes within them started rapidly," Gautam Jain, partner at media consulting firm Ormax had said in a recent interview. “But we now see a saturation of multiplexes in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and so on."

Also, due to the higher ticket prices in these halls, more films were made targeting the multiplex audience in big cities. Case in point being slice-of-life dramas such as Badhaai Ho, Stree, Bareilly Ki Barfi and so on, starring the likes of Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao and others, which had set the cash registers ringing when released before the pandemic.

As the content was unrelatable, these films sank in tier-II cities and smaller towns, signifying fewer opportunities for even existing theatres in these markets. This explains the sluggish growth of the theatrical business and multiplexes in the markets, Jain had explained.

Other than that, industry experts point out in markets like Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa, movie consumption is dominated by the Hindi language and it is the only content that is working, other than dubbed versions of English films on a limited scale. On the other hand, in cities like Bengaluru, for instance, people throng to films in all four southern languages, besides Hindi and English and, occasionally, even foreign language cinema.

That said, multiplex chains are looking at expanding their presence in virgin territories. Post the company’s last earnings call, Nitin Sood, chief financial officer at PVR Inox Ltd, had said the firm had earmarked an expenditure of 600-700 crore for screen expansion in FY24 and will have a similar plan in place for the next year as well.

“We’re looking at adding eight to nine new cities to our portfolio every quarter but waiting for mall and retail expansion in several markets," Sood had told Mint.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata writes about the media and entertainment industry for Mint, focusing on everything from traditional film and TV to newer areas like video and audio streaming, including the business and regulatory aspects of both. She loves movies and spends a lot of her free time in theatres, which makes her job both fun and a bit of a challenge given that entertainment news often just talks about the glamorous side of things. Lata, on the other hand, tries to find and report on themes and trends in the entertainment world that most people don't notice, even though a lot of people in her country are really into movies. She’s a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.
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Published: 22 Apr 2024, 10:53 AM IST
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