Next phase of growth for the theatrical business will come from tier II, III, IV towns & cities: Industry

The learning from National Cinema Day was that ticket pricing needs to be dynamic.

MUMBAI: The next phase of growth for the theatrical business will come from tier III and IV towns and cities. Even in tier II there is a scope for growth. There people have high disposable income. Also, it does not take them much time to commute unlike in the metros. It is a question of providing the right ambience. The theatres have to be projected, presented in the right way. The learning from the success of 'National Cinema Day' is that ticket pricing needs to be dynamic. Meanwhile, linguistic barriers are demolished. So, a Nepali movie can do well in Chennai. The issue is not that footfalls have gone down. It is that taste which is shifting. Only, if a movie is good then will people come.

The points were discussed at a session during 'Ficci Frames Fast Track 2022' called New Paradigm in Business of Cinema: Consumer Choices and Screen Comfort. The speakers were UFO Moviez CEO (film distribution) Pankaj Jaysinh, Sony Pictures International India general manager head Lada Guruden Singh, exhibitor and distributor Rockline Venkatesh and Movie Max chief operating officer Kunal Sawhney. The panel was moderated by Aashirwad Theatres director Akshaye Rathi.  

Sawhney made the point that 'National Cinema Day', where tickets prices came down to Rs 75, was an eyeopener. Ticket prices need to be dynamic. Right now, movies are sold at the same price. He pointed out that the rates differ everywhere-be it at hotels or restaurants. "The right product has to be served at the right price." He noted that marketing played an important role in 'National Cinema Day', being successful. Multiplexes also came together.

Singh noted that the jury is still out on what films will work on what platform. "We do not have a clear cut understanding of which film will work where. But the forecast is that the stakes will become higher for the big cinematic experience. You will put more money behind creating a cinematic experience because it is going to become more difficult for people to make an appointment viewing. Going to theatres is an appointment viewing. Superhero, tent pole and action movies will be theatrical releases. Meanwhile, slice of life movies, romantic comedies and horror to a large degree work well for OTT. The demarcations are going to come. Theatre, however, is an experience that we cannot compensate for," he said.

UFO Moviez has recently started distributing movies that became surprise successes like Rocketry and Karthikeya 2. Jaysinh noted that linguistic barriers were demolished. For instance, Brahmastra did well in the southern states and that is where traditionally Hindi movies did not do well.

UFO Moviez was always at the center of change. Jaysinh said, "We found that the right content was not reaching the right audience. A Nepali movie screened in Tamil Nadu had houseful shows. In Cochin, a theatre owner said that one more show timing had been added. Meanwhile, a Tamil movie did well in Jalandhar. This is the paradigm shift that is going on. In terms of marketing, he said that social media is taking the movies forward, not hoardings. The word spreads that a movie is good. So UFO Moviez is providing a block for the change that is happening."

Offering his perspective on linguistic barriers being broken, Sawhney said that this is also due to OTT. People are now being exposed to movies in different languages. They are open to it. Earlier, they could not relate to it. Due to OTT, people are aware of that kind of content. Sawhney said that ticket pricing needs to be dynamic. "In multiplexes there is fixed pricing based on time slots and weekdays. But a bigger budget movie and a movie that is not that popular is sold at the same price. But in hotels, restaurants, and airlines the price differs depending on the product. But in a cinema if you visit it on a Saturday evening all movies are screened at the same ticket price. People pay this price for some movies like RRR and KGF." He also said that the Rs 75 initiative on 'National Cinema Day' worked due to the marketing. Cinema halls came together. The Multiplex Association worked on it. News channels spoke about it. People who did not want a movie on that day were told to watch it.

Offering his take on prices, Jaysinh said that morning shows at 10 a.m and 11 a.m, which can be screened at a discount and will attract senior citizens. They are willing to come at that time and they will be the mouthpiece to tell their children and grandchildren.

Talking about the way stories are told, Singh said that people in his company are passionate about Bharat stories. "It is imperative for studios like us to back stories that do not just cater to the Bandra Juhu crowd. Stories must resonate from Gandhinagar to Gorakhpur to Gangtok." That is the philosophy which was followed to make a Telugu Hindi movie on one of the heroes of 26/11. It had a Telugu star and a director. But it was shot in Hindi and released pan India. It was also released abroad as it resonated with everyone across the world. The studio also backed Shaktimaan. He said that when they are backed by a big studio people start thinking along more creative lines because they feel that there is an opportunity. Then naturally the food chain starts functioning. So studios must understand that real growth lies in India. The decision is made on economics not on emotion. "It is important for all of us to come together and celebrate Bharat."

Sawhney noted that potential growth comes from tier II and III cities. They have high disposable income and time. They do not take much time to commute unlike the metros. The key is to make more good theatres there. Movies have to be projected, presented in the right way. The right ambiance, right service has to be created. Then people will come, he noted and added that even if the movie is not popular. There has to be a good theatre where the families can go. That is what is required. There is no other medium of entertainment for them. Jaysinh said that in a survey that his company underwent, people are eager to go to theatres in tier III and IV cities. The basic question is whether the theatre will have an AC. If that is there, they are willing to go. The plan is to come up with smaller screen cinemas in those places keeping in mind the fact that people want comfort.

On the issue of the lack of cinemas vis-a-vis the population, it was pointed out that costs are high. Retail cost is high. There is also the screen cost. The industry has to come together on this. Earlier, while rental was being paid, now there is a move towards revenue sharing.

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