Home / News / India /  CSC partners with October Cinemas

New Delhi: Common Service Centres (CSC), the physical facilities for delivering Government of India e-Services to rural and remote locations, has tied up with a firm called October Cinemas to meet an ambitious target of opening 10,000 movie screens over the next five years. 

The latter will coordinate with village level entrepreneurs to build movie theatres with seating capacity of 75-150 in small towns and provide them low-cost projectors besides acting as distributors of films. 

These theatres, developed as community centres, for other occasions such as weddings and birthdays, will sell tickets starting at 50 and will serve as spaces for family entertainment. 

In the first phase, markets in the north east, UP, Bihar and Rajasthan are being targeted. 

Punit Desai managing director, October Cinemas, said, the company is considering villages with population between 50,000 and 100,000 and is in the process of shortlisting 500 locations, which should see openings within this year.

“We feel the time is right for media and entertainment services to be taken to rural masses. Issues like piracy have existed in India because of challenges to supply of content. About 70% of real India has no access to cinema halls and around 1,000-1,500 screens have shut shop during the pandemic itself," said Desai who is known for backing films like Farhan Akhtar-starrer The Fakir of Venice.

CSCs are access points for delivery of public utility services, social welfare schemes, healthcare and educational facilities, and function as an entity within the ministry of electronics and information technology. These theatres would be a mix of single and dual-screen cinemas that would run three shows per day and content would be provided by October Cinemas. 

The company is looking at capital expenditure of 45 crore in projectors, sound equipment and other hardware besides ensuring licenses, design templates and other checks and balances. Village entrepreneurs, on the other hand, would act as landlords of the property. Ensuring other streams of revenue such as through weddings or birthdays, would enable the property to function as a community centre for family entertainment.

To be sure, film trade experts point out that attempts at creating smaller cinemas have been made in the past. In 2013, United Mediaworks, owned by Bhandari brothers – Ashish and Sachin – who owned textile company United Textile Mills, and Pradeep Tapadiya, founder of Software Labs, had started Nukkad Entertainment, a chain of small-sized digital cinema halls targeting lower income groups of the country. Production and distribution house K Sera Sera had also targeted 500 miniplex theatres focusing on tier-two and three cities and district headquarters, where there are fewer choices for entertainment.

“Many of these have not worked. A lot of these are virgin markets and every state has its own licensing issues. Plus, spare equipment has to be kept handy if something needs to be replaced immediately. In many locations, there are no rules to construct cinemas at all," a film trade analyst said adding that low-cost projectors would eliminate possibilities of screening Hollywood films that can only be played in DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives)-compliant theatres.

DCI is a joint venture of several film studios, including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios, The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros, to set up a common set of requirements that ensure a high and uniform standard of digital cinema viewing.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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