A frequent observation on this page is that inadequate availability of cinemas/screens in our country is among the key factors inhibiting the Indian film market from achieving its inherent potential.
That is true not only in absolute terms given the massive size of our population, but also compounded by the very uneven distribution of exhibition platforms i.e. over-supply in a few areas where many properties are clustered together, while large regions have few, if any, outlets to indulge their desire to watch a film.
In the past, we have explored screen density in India from the perspective of per capita availability, as also comparisons with other major markets like North America, China and the European Union. This week, we are looking at another very important variable that is pertinent to this discussion – distance.
On average, how far does one have to travel to watch a film in different regions of our vast country, the seventh-largest in the world? And considering that a day at the movies has increasingly become a social outing combined with a meal out or shopping, we are taking the study a step further to map average distances between multiplex properties, which is typically where these social excursions take place.
Take a look at the table below:
|State||Area (Square KM)||Number Of Theatres||Average Area Served Per Theatre (Square KM)||Average Distance Between Theatres
|Number of Multiplexes||Average Area Served Per Multiplex
|Average Distance Between Multiplexes (Kilometers)|
|Jammu and Kashmir||222,236||22||10101||100||3||74078||272|
*Undivided Andhra Pradesh (including modern-day Telangana state)
^Properties in Chandigarh, shared capital of Punjab and Haryana, considered in counts of both states, but only once in national tally
All figures rounded off to the nearest kilometer/square kilometer
The way to read this table is: India’s largest state, Rajasthan, has 125 theatres spread over an area of around 340,000 square kilometers. That translates into each theatre, on average, serving a catchment area of over 2,700 square kilometers. Were all of these properties evenly spread, you would have to travel 52 kilometers after exiting one theatre before you came across another – a figure arrived at by calculating the square root of the area numbers. In terms of multiplexes, the state’s 32 multiplexes serve an area of almost 10,700 square kilometers each, for an average distance of 103 kilometers between such properties.
In other words, if you are in Rajasthan and want to watch a film (God bless you for that!) but adamant that you do so only in a multiplex, you better hope that tickets at your closest chain haven’t been sold out because it would be a 100–kilometer trek to the next property! As is evident from the data above, Rajasthan is by no means the least screen-dense region. In states like Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha, the average distance between multiplexes is in excess of 225 kilometers. To put that in perspective, it is a shorter journey for a Mumbaikar to go for a darshan to Shirdi than someone in those above states to pay obeisance to their screen idols!
That’s not even the worst for it. Entire states, not surprisingly in the oft-neglected North-East region of our country, are without a single multiplex, including Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.
It is obvious that at a time when our audience has multiple options to keep them entertained – at home and literally in the palm of their hands – convenient proximity to a cinema hall is the most basic encouragement we can offer those willing to buy a film ticket, after all, distance – like absence, may make the heart grow fonder… but too much distance, and the heart begins to wander!