NEW DELHI: Shopping malls that were permitted to reopen in June after a prolonged covid-19 lockdown are looking at resumption of movie theatre operations next month as a way to bounce back to business.
Occupying around 30% of the mall space, cinemas can bring in between 30% and 40% of footfalls in some cases, with consumers quite often clubbing movie viewing with shopping and eating out before or after that. As of now, mall owners admit people are only visiting shops for essentials and not really strolling around.
“The experience of the movie theatre is still unique, and popular despite digital and streaming platforms," said Nimish Arora, director and CEO at Delhi’s Select City Walk. “A trip to a movie is usually accompanied by retail therapy and a meal as well. Multiplexes enhance the entire destination and complete entertainment experience attracting varied demographics from young people to families."
Arora added that spikes in business are usually seen on weekends and holidays when big-ticket movies are released, attracting a certain quantum of footfalls.
At a panel discussion with Workplace Trends, a global forum to connect industry leaders and stakeholders, Arjun Sharma, chairman of the Select Group had said that cinemas will be a big draw to woo customers back. Though footfalls in Sharma’s Saket mall have been touching the 6,500 mark daily of late with food and beverage sales at Rs. 3-4 lakh, the wait is for theatres to open up.
“We are all responsible businesses and sooner or later, the government too will realise it is much safer to be in a cinema hall than many other places," Sharma had said.
Dalip Sehgal, chief executive officer at Nexus Malls, said the success of multiplexes and malls are interlinked with the community experience of the latter incomplete without the former.
“Cinemagoers are serious spenders," said Devang Sampat, director at the Multiplex Association of India adding that while in ordinary cases, 35% of the people who come to malls end up shopping and spending money, 100% of those who come to multiplexes shell out money, beginning with the movie and often going on to other things.
A customer’s loyalty towards the multiplex is more firm and inelastic, and this helps the mall in increasing its repeat visitor count, theatre owners say.
“Access routes are memorized and fewer barriers exist in the customer’s mind, leading to an increased affinity, loyalty and comfort," said Alok Tandon, CEO, INOX Leisure Ltd. “Multiplexes have also been investing heavily towards enhancing the movie viewing experience by adding newer cinema technologies and formats to augment the offering, giving newer reasons for a larger cross-section of consumers to visit the malls they operate in."
In the past one-and-a-half months though, the consumer behaviour, driven by limited cash flows and a sense of fear, has been centered around coming to malls only to buy essentials, said Amitabh Taneja, chairman, Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI). And to be sure, both retailers and theatre chains are aware of the tough times they are in for. Recovery will not be immediate, people are unlikely to flock back to either cinemas or retail outlets in huge numbers at least in the coming weeks. But that hasn’t deterred them from prepping for safety and hygiene protocols including cashless transactions, thermal checks, staff training and so on.
“It could be a slow start for cinemas with average rates of occupancy of 30% down by half but perhaps people will start coming in non-peak hours such as morning shows," said Pushpa Bector, executive director at DLF Shopping Malls who says they are hoping for both bars and movie theatres to be granted permission for reopening in the set of guidelines due this August.