SVF to scale-up cinema exhibition biz with 50-60 new screens

MUMBAI: Content producer SVF Entertainment’s cinema exhibition arm SVF Cinemas is planning to add 50 to 60 screens in West Bengal by 2020. The company is building an eco-system for single screens in West Bengal by modernising them into mixed-use properties with multiple screens.

Since the last three to four years, the single screens in Bengal have been closing down due to lack of infrastructure. Seeing the dwindling state of single screens, SVF entered the exhibition business with SVF Cinemas last year. Currently, SVF Cinemas has opened around 10 single screens across the main cities in Bengal such as Kolkata, Narendrapur, Krishnanagar, Purulia, Bolpur, Mogra, Sheoraphuli, Kalyani, Memari and Giridih.

SVF co-founder and director Mahendra Soni commented that almost of 70% of singles screens are on the verge of closing. “Now, if there are no single screens how will the film work? Keeping that in my mind we are trying to rebuild the eco-system. We realised that there is audience for single screen as the theatre experience will never go away from India. We also realised that some exhibitors are not willing to invest in smaller pockets because of the operational and real estate cost. So we thought of opening our own screens,” he added.

Faced with a low screen density, the Bengali film industry is over-dependent on satellite revenue for their survival. SVF has inked a five year satellite rights deal with Star India to de-risk its film monetisation.

Soni believes that satellite rights will remain biggest the revenue generator for Bengali films for next five to 10 years. “For surviving in the film business, television will play a very big role as television is available in every household. Also satellite operators haven’t reduced their budget, digital has entered the picture and content is also increasing. Now it is a volume game, earlier we used to make three to five films now we are making 20 films a year. It is good for the industry,” he stated.

Over the years, SVF Entertainment has successfully produced over 120 films including National Award winning ‘Chokher Bali’, ‘Raincoat’, ‘Memories in March’, ‘Chitrangada’ and ‘Chotoder Chobi’.

On the TV side, Soni said that the company will be producing five new shows for Colors Bangla, Star Jalsha and Zee Bangla. It is also in talks with Sun TV Network for its soon to launch Bengali GEC Sun Bangla.

“We are working on five new shows for television which will be announced soon. We will be creating two shows each for Colors Bangla and Star Jalsha. We are also producing one show for Zee Bangla. Apart from that, we are focusing on offering 30 original shows and 12 original films on hoichoi, which we announced recently,” Soni said.

So far, SVF has produced 30 TV shows comprising over 5000 hours of content. Currently, the production house is working on three shows including two namely ‘Gopal Bhar’ and ‘Jai Kaali Kalkattawali’ on Star Jalsha and ‘Amloki’ on Zee Bangla.

Last year, SVF Entertainment also entered into digital space with its over the top (OTT) platform hoichoi which features exclusive original web series, films, short films and movies.

In its second year, Hoichoi has said that it will launch 30 original shows and 12 original films translating to 100+ hours of original content in the coming year. The platform also plans to beef up its content library by acquiring 200 Bengali movies of which 12 will be world digital premieres. It is also venturing into kids content.

Speaking about hoichoi’s one year journey, Soni commented, “After one year, we can say that we understand the market and this eco-system better. Content everywhere needs to be great. Digital gives us flexibility to do the story which are more edgy, current and finite stories where it can’t be stretched like that in television. There has to be some content for every episode and the content needs to be fast and spacey and reach out to the audience in the age group of 18-35. This will keep on changing when new audiences come to platform.”

SVF has three main priorities going forward. This includes delivering the 30 original shows on Hoichoi, opening up new cinema screens and venturing into other markets including Hindi. “Success of Hoichoi, new cinema screens and venturing into Hindi market are three agendas that we have for 2020,” he said.