Multiplexes see growth opportunity in screening of alternate content

MUMBAI: While theatrical releases are the mainstay for multiplexes many of them are doing other initiatives to gain additional footfalls and bring in extra revenue via ticket sales and sponsorships. Initiatives include foreign language film festivals, Oscar festivals as well as music concerts and live sports events.

Events also help in brand building and growing loyalty. A case in point is Inox Leisure which recently tied up with the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Inox Leisure chief sales officer Anand Vishal noted that his company looks at a lot of areas beyond theatrical releases. The opportunity for him lies in the fact that 89% of the audiences belong to the SEC-A category and 80% of them are below the age of 34 years. So the propensity to spend is high and genres like sports work extremely well.

“Due to the nature of the content, sports is a default choice. We have aired IPL in the past, we had successfully screened FIFA World Cup matches, we are screening 15 matches of the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup. We have just announced a marketing partnership with the NBA, which would also include a live screening of NBA matches on our screens. We are open to screening live sporting content with other relevant sports as well, as and when the opportunity arises,” Vishal stated.

Inox also sees potential in screening live music concerts noting that in the K-Pop genre, Inox has screened concerts of the popular group ‘Burn The Stage’ which was much appreciated by the audience. Another whitespace for him is infotainment which allows for the screening of beautifully shot documentaries. Of course, there are also events like Film Festivals that also allow the multiplex chain to engage with audiences with some high-quality feature films.

When asked about the importance of sports, he noted that a lot has been written about sports as the best content for gaining eyeballs, and there is no doubt about the same. The reason for this is that as passionate fans get involved, their passion gets translated into engagement, and that makes sports a great opportunity from a content perspective. However, he adds that Inox treats sports not just as another avenue of entertaining consumers but as a lifestyle initiative.

He noted that screening of content in cinemas in various genres whether it’s sports or music events is a win-win for all – the rights holders, broadcasters, advertisers, multiplex operators, and above all, the viewers. “Viewers want experiences, and if we are able to dish out some thrilling experiences then it’s a great opportunity for the entire ecosystem.”

Cinepolis India director strategic initiatives Devang Sampat noted that his company does around five events in genres like sports, music concerts, and plays. About seven movie related initiatives like an Oscar festival are done annually but these initiatives are categorised by the company as movies. He noted that since India has more theatrical releases 1200 annually which is more than any other country. So the opportunity to do events in genres like music is relatively limited.

Nonetheless, it is an area where Cinepolis will continue to focus on. Events he noted provide an opportunity for brands, advertisers to engage with consumers and so sponsorship revenue comes in. The focus is more on sponsorship than on growing box office. But events are important for brand engagement. Brands like Coca Cola, Paytm and FMCG brands have come on-board for events.

He noted that while revenues from events like airing FIF tournaments and music concerts are growing it will be the same as a percentage of overall revenues. He feels that while demand for events is growing the revenue contribution (not including sponsorship) will not be significant. He added that for content right holders the multiplexes represent a good marketing point. “Whenever events happen multiplexes create convenience for people to consume events.”

On the movie front, he noted that doing foreign festivals and showcasing movies from countries like Japan and Korea are important. These initiatives the company classifies under movies and not events. “These sorts of things we keep doing. They attract a very niche audience. We have a 3D festival, an Imax festival as our properties.”

These festivals attract sponsorships and at the same time reach consumers with a clear goal of bringing them back to the multiplexes. “These initiatives build loyalty to multiplexes” he explains. He noted that in certain markets like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and Kolkata a healthy amount of interest is there for foreign films and so opportunities are explored. The pricing he noted varies and if it is a live sports event then the price may be very high. If it is a movie festival then there is special pricing which is 50 percent lower than a normal ticket price.

Another multiplex major PVR also does a whole host of initiatives besides the regular Friday theatrical release space. For instance, last year it had revived its alternate content exhibition vertical PVR LIVE as PVR LIVE 2.0 the new season of showcasing alternate content.

Offering a world away from traditional cinema model, it programs and hosts a series of cinema events setting high standards of alternate content for the patrons. PVR Live 2.0 had kicked with screenings of PANCHAM UNMIXED – a tribute documentary directed by Brahmanand S Siingh honoring the renowned composer R.D. Burman.

PVR LIVE (Entertainment Beyond Movies) has brought global alternate content to India like Museum Exhibitions, Concert Films, Musicals, Ballets, Theatre/ Broadway plays etc.

Another initiative is Vkaao which PVR had launched in partnership with two years back. This is an on-demand service that allows customers to choose movies they want to see. This allows for a broadening of offerings and providing a highly personalised experience. Earlier this year Shemaroo announced a partnership with Vkaao to bring the ‘roast cinema’ format to the big screen with the launch of ‘Picture Ki Cheer Phaad’, a take on Bollywood movies. The aim of Vkaao is to develop an innovative, self-sustained platform to showcase global content;

PVR business head alternate content Dharmesh Datta had noted that though mainstream studio content is still the rage; alternate indie content is fast emerging as a compelling option. The aim of PVR LIVE he had explained is to cater to discerning patrons. While the content-pipeline is unique the aim is to have something for everyone.

PVR also works in the sports arena and this year did a deal with Sony to air WWE’s event ‘Wrestlemania’. Like other multiplexes it also does Oscar film festivals every year. This year the festival ran for a month.

When asked about the pricing of events, Vishal noted that pricing depends on the location, the cost of the structure, the paying propensity of the catchment, the day of the week and the time of the day. This, he pointed out, is a common formula for all types of screening, whether theatrical releases or special events.

The audience profile, he said, broadens as a result of events. “Since cinema is almost like a national obsession in our country, so our audience profile is universal. But events definitely help us in bringing the non-cinema lovers to our multiplexes, and giving them a feel of the giant screen, and the ambience.”

However, Inox does not look at events just from a revenue standpoint. The aim is to further build Inox as a brand. “More than revenue generation efforts, we look at LIVE events largely and purely as consumer delight and brand building initiatives. We are aiming to build a stronger connect with the audiences through these unique offerings by delighting them. Ticketing, as we always believe, is a function of content. Content is the new “hero” and as long as the content is performing well, ticketing revenues will flow in on its own. Moreover, alternate content events are delivered through a much lesser number of screens as against our total screens. Our job remains to ensure the cinematic experience we are known for.”

In terms of marketing to create buzz around an event, Inox adopts an integrated approach. “We have a well-established communications infrastructure, a very healthy social media presence, and a good number of daily hits on our website and our app. This is over and above the traditional advertising tools like print and outdoor advertising,” Vishal stated.

When asked if screening of alternate content is done across the country, he noted that decisions are purely based on the initiative or the content. “For example, World Cup cricket, besides the metros, is also telecasted in places like Surat, Vadodara and Faridabad. Similarly, we have to host regional language film festivals at non-metro locations.”

On the marketing front, Sampat stated that to create awareness about events Cinepolis uses the digital platform a lot. Of course, corporate events are also important. He gives the example of Yes Bank which is one of Cinepolis’ partners. it does events for key clients.

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