The multiplex's steady proliferation in the metropolis and simultaneous penetration into some smaller cities and towns testifies to its increasing popularity, coinciding with the rise of disposable incomes in the hands of the urban Indian family.
The increasingly curious mix of parallel, regional and art cinema, along with the mainstream -- both domestic and foreign -- is what distinguishes most multiplexes in India, such that the Indian multiplex has come to position itself, not so much by identifying with particular kinds of films, as by being a theatre for accessing the 'latest' from a wide spread of cinematic fare - mainstream or fringe - in comfortable, colourful and inviting surroundings.
The panel of the discussion consisted of Manmohan Shetty (managing director, Adlabs Films Ltd-Digital Cinema in India), Atul Goel (CEO, E-City Entertainment?), Timothy O Brien (media consultant, Shaf Broadcast Pvt Ltd) and John Schreiner (VP, Imax Theatre Systems)
Shetty who was the moderator for the session asserted that investments are only doubling in case of multiplexes, and around Rs 150 crore would be put in this year.
Meanwhile Goel, CEO, E-City Entertainment, began by stating that with higher household incomes, above Rs. 20,000 a month, consumers are indulging in more than one entertainment activity in a single visit. He shares certain demographics relevant to the city of Mumbai, "Nearly 68 percent of the total audience that comes to Fun Republic is from the SEC A category and most of the viewing occurs on weekends. Of the people visiting, 60 percent own plastic money, and they expect the best kind of service since they are willing to part with the extra buck. We have taken enough marketing activities for our upper end consumers by building the right ambience within the multiplex, in addition to the mall and by taking on promotional activities such as our combo entertainment product 'Ek Ka Teen'."
Goel added, "40-45 percent of our sales are non-ticketed sales. Which means that you ought to serve combo products and facilitate the mall better. The strategy should be interactive, with promotions during the frequented periods, that is, weekends and formulation of combo products and loyalty programmes."
John Schreiner (VP, Imax Theatre Systems) took off from where Goel left and presented the IMAX success story. He said, "We have around 248 theatres in 35 countries and we have successfully transformed most Hollywood films into the IMAX format. As is known, the film frame is 10 times larger than the normal 35 mm. These are screens that stretch beyond the audience peripheral view and amount to 14,000 watts of IMAX-DMR. You can take any live action Hollywood film and blow it up to the IMAX frame. In Hyderabad, we earned around Rs 300, 000 in the first three months."
The biggest offerings from the IMAX platter, has been Slate in addition to Walking on the Moon and Aliens and the Deep. The later two should be making an appearance on Indian screens in September.
As per Schreiner, India and Russia are developing at a record pace in terms of malls and multiplexes. As per numbers given by him, 75 percent of consumers polled within a group study said that they were willing to pay 3$ more for the IMAX experience, while 59 percent were willing to pay 5$ more.
Timothy O Brien (Prana Consultancy) believes that the film industry is spending Rs 80 crore on printing and distribution alone, it still does not see sense in high quality digital cinema applications, as opposed to cinema technology. A fact which could be altered in the coming days.
Brien also said that the multiplex players could stand to gain from the deficiencies of broadband players. He added, "Even with all the hype over broadband in the region, telecom service providers are struggling with the business models and integrated technological solutions. PC penetration is still low in India. Which means that video on demand has still not reached the juncture that it could."
Meanwhile Manmohan Shetty concluded with some of the hurdles in approaching digital technology. Shetty aptly summed up the chicken and egg situation in the following words, "Since you already have so many cinemas functioning on the existing technology, it would take a lot of effort, investment and initiative to coax them to abandon the already existing system, and embrace the digital format. And that's the crux of the problem."