Mumbai: While the fiscal second quarter June-September has been subdued due to the underperformance of Bollywood (apart from "Brahmastra"), multiplex operator PVR is counting on a much better performance during the festive season. It is planning a slew of initiatives to cash in on the season, which will see a return to normalcy in this period after a gap of two years.
Speaking to Indiantelevision.com PVR CEO Gautam Dutta said, "With an objective to encash on the blockbuster releases during the festive period, PVR will be running many promotions from 10–31 October across its products and services. This would entail special offers on ticket booking, PVR e-gift cards, Diwali gift hampers, and ‘V Pristine’ by PVR for its loyalty base of 1.46 crore privilege members. These will be announced on the PVR social media handle and in our cinemas."
Talking about the growth in revenue that PVR expects during the festive season compared to the same period last year, he says that after a rousing start of FY23 with Q1 doing amazing numbers and breaking all-time records in the history of cinemas, Q2 has become subdued, marked by the underperformance of some movies. "We are extremely optimistic about the festive season ahead, as this will be the first time in two years that cinemas will be operating without restrictions. Substantiating these expectations is a big line-up of movies that would hit the theatres, and the rolling back of the usual eight-week theatrical window that has been reintroduced since 1 August."
When asked about inflation being a challenge, he said that in the first quarter of FY23, there has been a strong growth of 23 per cent in average ticket price (ATP which is Rs 250) and 32 per cent growth in average F&B spend per patron (which is Rs 134) as compared to the pre-pandemic period. He added that the spending ratio of F&B to ATP has also increased from 49 per cent to 54 per cent. "This shows that patrons have accepted the increase in ticket prices and there has been an increase in their spending on F&B. The contribution of recliner seats to overall footfalls and occupancy has also increased, indicating that patrons are willing to pay a premium for a more luxurious moviegoing experience. There was a strong bounce-back in theatrical admissions with 2.5 crore patrons visiting our cinemas during Q1 FY23."
Festivals, Gautam explained, are a time when families bond with each other, while cinema is primarily a family entertainment medium, so they complement each other. What encourages him is the fact that there is a festive atmosphere and people are in a buoyant mood and like to eat out and watch movies with their families. Speaking about the big releases lined up across languages, he noted, "There is an exciting movie line up in the October to December period covering all languages and genres, released in multiple formats and appealing to all segments of the audience. These include "Vikram Vedha" (Hindi), "Kantara" (Kannada), Mani Rathnam’s "Ponniyin Selvan" (Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada), "The Woman King" (English), "Ticket to Paradise" (English), "Goodbye" (Hindi), "Doctor G" (Hindi), Warner Bros "Black Adam" (English), "Ram Setu" (Hindi), "Har Har Mahadev" (Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada), "Prince" (Tamil, Telugu), "Thank God" (Hindi), "Phone Bhoot" (Hindi), Disney’s "Black Panther – Wakanda Forever" (English), "Uunchai" (Hindi), "Drishyam 2" (Hindi), "Bhediya" (Hindi), Disney’s "Avatar; The Way of Water" (English), "Cirkus" (Hindi).""
When queried about the scene in terms of in-theatre advertising, he pointed out that there has been a gradual improvement in advertising revenue with a 68 per cent recovery in Q1 FY23 as compared to the pre-pandemic Q1 FY20. "Given the fact that we have some big films slated to release in the upcoming festive season, it will serve as an opportunity for us to revive advertiser interest and drive brand partnerships and retail opportunities. Q3, which includes the holiday season, is traditionally a good quarter for advertising surges, and we expect the same this year. We expect cinema advertising to reach close to 80 per cent of its pre-pandemic level and will bounce back and hit pre-Covid levels by the end of Q4."
Offering further perspective, he said that PVR plays with fair equivalence vis-a-vis traditional media in terms of enjoying brand confidence and presence across various sectors of product categories. "Mostly all the relevant and sizable categories are on board with us. FMCG, telecom, e-commerce, ed-tech, BFSI (including fintech), consumer durables, automobiles, apparel, accessories, and jewellery, media entertainment, real estate, and so on are dominant categories. Some mainstream brands include Apple, Oppo, Cred, One Plus, Facebook, Whatsapp, Pepsico, Coke, Dyson, Kotak, Pepsi, Coke, Tata CliQ, Dettol, HDFC, Nippon , WOW etc."
On the ticket price front, he pointed out that the pandemic caused unprecedented damage to the film exhibition industry. It has practically remained shut or been allowed to operate partially for two years. In normal course, there would have been a marginal increase in ticket prices every year to match inflationary trends. There has been an increase in ticket prices since there was no increase in ticket prices for two full years. "Our average ticket price for FY 21-22 has been Rs 235, which is marginally more than Rs 204 in the pre-pandemic FY 19-20. Ticket prices are capped in three states, namely, AP, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, where we can’t do much. Moreover, they vary as per the category of the movie, show times during the day, weekdays and weekends."
In terms of where the growth is coming from, he reveals that over the last decade, the number of malls has increased dramatically. Previously, the development was happening in metros and tier I cities—they are now finding their way into tier II cities as well. "The expansion of multiplexes will also be aided by this deepening footprint. Moreover, there is a lack of out-of-home entertainment options in tier II and III as multiplexes continue to remain the cheapest form of similar leisure activity in India as compared to theme park visits, dining out, and vacations. With such indicators in place, our recent expansion to Narsipatnam, Rourkela, Patiala, and Nizamabad clearly shows our vision and commitment to strengthen our presence beyond metro cities."
He added that the company has revived its capex plans in a significant manner and is on track to open a total of 125 new screens during FY23. "We have opened 20 screens across four properties since the start of FY23. We recently opened our six-screen cinema at Hinjawadi, Pune, which includes a P[XL] auditorium that marks Pune’s first multiplex with an extra-large screen. About one-third of the new screen additions in this fiscal year will be in tier II and III cities. The company plans to enter nine new cities during the year."