Make it mega and they will come… The discerning movie-goer wants great content packaged in a superlative cinematic ‘experience’
I must have been 10 years old and I remember we would drive to our family-owned Priya theatre, all the way to a very deserted Vasant Vihar back then. My father had made a plush office on the first floor of the cinema, overlooking the main lobby and entrance of the theatre. We would watch hordes of people pour in to watch the best of Hollywood films: Enter The Dragon, Magnificent 7 and Exorcist, to name a few.
Even in those days, film marketing was innovative and exciting. Since cable TV was not present, my father would hire a helicopter to shower leaflets of the new releases. T-shirts of Bruce Lee were snatched by me and my friends and we would struggle to find sizes small enough to fit our tiny torsos. The '70s were a period of freedom and cinema celebrated that spirit!
After that, with VHS and colour TVs becoming a new trend, there was the sad demise of cinema halls. We stopped going to our beloved cinema. Our Sundays were now spent watching Disney hour and Bikram And Baital on TV. My father would make a reluctant call to the manager on the weekends to enquire about the collections; a conversation that would barely last a minute. Curtains were almost down, and something had to be done urgently.
The late '90s and the onset of the millennium, 2000, saw the resurgence of cinemas with the advent of multiplexes, with four or more screens under one roof along with computerised ticketing, plush auditoriums, crunchy popcorn and chilled cola. With the introduction of Dolby surround sound system, people were coming back to theatres and so were filmmakers.
Buoyed by the response of the people, multiplexes mushroomed all over the country.
With the mall culture exploding, multiplexes and retailing grew exponentially and watching movies came back with a bang. Filmmakers were quick to adapt and started making films of all genres and budgets, catering to a large and diverse group of movie-goers.
In 2015, over 70 million people went to cinemas. Multiplexes have given way to megaplexes and are equipped with the state-of-the-art technology. Dolby Atmos, 4K projectors, IMAX screens and laser screens are just some of the advancements made in the cinema industry, and there are many more to come.
Films are getting bigger and better. To name a few, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Dilwale, PK, Airlift and Bajirao Mastani soared at the box office, and so did Hollywood jump up and take notice of a tough market with successes such as The Jungle Book, Fast & Furious, Jurassic World etc.
Yes, we are back with our Sunday rituals now. Watching people pour in for three hours of escapism, in a plush environment, watching their favourite stars, munching their preferred flavour of popcorn. Bliss!
Cinema exhibition business has grown tremendously over the years and there are seven major trends that lead to its success:
1.Food and Beverage:
Food and beverage is a major part of the film exhibition business. With a strong appetite for innovation, F&B is now customised keeping in mind changing trends in customer preferences. The trend which we see now is based on health; convenience and accessibility of ordering F&B; innovation and adaptation of the existing foods in cinema format.
People are becoming more health conscious and it is imperative for patrons to indulge themselves sans guilt. Regular cola and popcorn remain the quintessential cinema snacking items. However, with the availability of healthy options, PVR cinemas now serve a wide range of baked and grilled items, which is low on fat and high on taste. Consumers also get grilled vegetables, protein shakes, fresh fruit juices, multi-grain sandwiches and burgers and gourmet cuisine at the cinema counters.
Today, consumers are time poor and need a one-stop destination to enjoy films with a variety of F&B offerings. This is where technology aids the food ordering and serving process such as the PVR app, website, kiosk and other F&B applications. They play a vital role through which customers can order food online and get it served right at their seats with easy-to-use cutlery.
Considering innovation is an integral element in any business, it holds true for food and beverage too, not to forget the importance of adaptation especially in cinema format. Food and beverage in cinemas need special adaptation as both consumption and production need to be tweaked to the format where infrastructurally we might not have the same facilities as we would have in any restaurant.
We now strive to match the facilities in our newer cinemas and have done this with new-age equipment like combi ovens, induction devices etc, which are extremely versatile and take up minimal space. The improvement of facilities and adaptation has allowed us to start serving various products which were traditional restaurant items. Exotic and delectable items like sushi, grilled meat and gourmet, thin-crust pizzas are now a reality in cinemas and we are happy to start the trend.
Even the quintessential popcorn has moved from the usual salted, butter and caramel to a delectable variety of flavours.
Movie-watching in the country is undergoing a dramatic transformation. It’s not just about the film any more. New target audiences are being explored and served with a special focus on hospitality, amenities, F&B, etc. But the most exciting are the new-age formats and concepts like 4DX, IMAX, Dolby Atmos, and next generation 3D, which are keeping movie-goers glued to their seats.
In order to transform mundane cinema-watching into a mind-boggling experience, 4DX technology has excited the audience at cinemas. With high-tech motion seats and breathtaking special effects involving elements such as wind, fog, lightning, water, rain, scent, etc; 4DX format triggers all the five senses, giving viewers a real-life experience of the action unfolding on the screen.
Besides 4DX, another format that is hugely popular is IMAX. A massive screen, custom surround-sound system, bigger-than-usual 3D glasses, etc makes IMAX one of the most immersive movie-watching experiences in the world.
Clearly, gone are the days when all a movie-goer wanted was a decent theatre and comfortable seats. Now, the discerning viewer is looking for a more evolved movie-watching experience, which includes great sound and picture quality. Hence, Dolby Atmos, which brings entertainment alive, surrounding the audience in a powerfully immersive and emotive experience, is also popular amongst the audience who wants nothing but the best.
3.Technological Advancements for Customer Engagement:
PVR is a complete digitised cinema that strives to excel in the technological sphere. From online ticketing to bookings on the website and now through the PVR app, it is moving fast towards providing patrons an on-the-go advantage. The brand is using its customer analytics to better understand their consumer behaviour and has piloted various digital IT initiatives to provide convenience to patrons. A few initiatives are as follows:
Revamping the PVR website and the app to focus on making the ticket booking process more intuitive and easy. Now along with booking, a customer can also put in reminders (in calendar for ‘coming soon’ movies) and ‘share’ options and ‘bookings with friends’ on Facebook/Twitter/WhatsApp/Email/SMS etc.
Customers can make payments using multiple payment channels such as gift cards, mobile wallets, credit and debit cards and net banking. They can also order food and drinks at the cinemas while using the mobile app.
At the cinemas, one can interact now with Selfie screens to take pictures with their favourite stars and share those on various social platforms. They can also tweet messages to movie stars.
After watching the movie, they can engage with PVR on social platforms (Facebook/Twitter etc), share their feedback at feedback touch panels, toll free numbers, or over SMS and be informed over emails and app notifications.
Multiple formats all under one roof is the future of multiplexes. We are moving towards 12 to 15-screen complexes, where a greater choice of movies and formats can be made available to the audience. It allows us to bring various formats and technology such as IMAX, big screens, 4DX and playhouse all under one roof.
With screenings of diverse content throughout the day, the Indian audience will have a multiple choice of movies, more show options and a longer running duration. This not only increases the shelf- life of the movie at cinemas, benefitting distributors, but is also very beneficial to producers.
The in-cinema advertising industry has grown tremendously over the years. Add to that the fact that India is one of the biggest producers of movies in the world, with 1.93 billion people watching films at multiplexes annually. Revenues from in-cinema advertising have grown by 28 per cent from 2014 and are estimated to have reached `6.27 billion at the end of the year 2015. These days, companies are devising new ways to advertise their products in multiplexes to get the maximum reach among the audience.
PVR, gauging the potential of cine-media from a very early stage, has brought in various innovative ideas over these years. With NOC and Pay per eyeball concepts, PVR assures advertisers of brand visibility and proof of play.
For PVR, revenues from cinema advertising have jumped from `9 crore in 2009 to a whopping `250 crore in 2015. From regional to crème to international brands, with a wide reach to patrons and foreign expats, PVR caters to a diverse audience that helps to get the maximum reach for their advertisers. PVR helps companies to create their ‘own brand world’ backed by PVR’s exceptional service and quality.
6.Content Is the king:
The beauty of the Indian film market is its diversity. We have films in all major languages as well as films that cater to an audience of a specific dialect. Traditionally, regional films have enjoyed a dominant presence in their home states and neighbouring states. However, with proliferation of multiplexes in all corners of the country, regional films have now started finding their own niche in non-traditional markets as well. Films like Sairat and Gujju Bhai The Great have redefined and broadened the regional film industry segment. This is a welcome trend and is likely to continue.
Hollywood films have always had a loyal audience in India. Post 2012 and Avatar, in recent times Fast & Furious 7 broke in to the Rs.100-crore club. In the same year, we had high-profile box-office grossers like Avengers Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and Mission Impossible: 5. This year, The Jungle Book was an outperformer, breaking box-office records.
Not only CGI-driven, big-budget Hollywood films but even animated films have started to find their feet in our market. Films like UP, Penguins of Madagascar, Inside Out and Kungfu Panda are examples of recent successes that the animation genre has seen in India. These are all positive trends and reflect the maturity that our market is gaining and re-emphasises the diversity that it has.
With growing scale and number of multiplex screens, and variety in terms of seating capacities that multiplexes offer; content-driven and tightly-budgeted films have received a major growth impetus. The quantity and quality of this segment continues to grow each year.
All said, the cinema-going audience continues to be driven by good quality films irrespective of their language, star cast, budget, marketing etc. Good films will attract them in a manner where they want to come back to cinemas and watch more films.
7.Penetration Into Tier II, Tier III Cities:
With single screens being a thing of the past, the ‘multiplex culture’ is picking up fast in Tier II and Tier III cities. Consumers are willing to pay to get the best forms of entertainment.
Considering that cinema is no less than a religion in India, PVR has a robust expansion plan to take multiplexes to the remotest cities in the country. The company has expanded its reach with equal penetration in metros as well as in Tier II and Tier III cities and will continue to reach the target of 1,000 screens by 2018.