Movie theatres are increasingly screening sports matches, music concerts, niche and independent animation flicks and documentaries to generate revenue, in the wake of a succession of box office failures, especially in the Hindi-speaking market.
Multiplex chains said that besides the upcoming soccer World Cup, they will showcase concerts by popular bands like BTS and Coldplay on big screens. According to film trade analysts, though some content was on offer even before the pandemic outbreak, multiplexes are looking at ways to bring audiences to theatre, at a time the movie business is in doldrums.
“The idea is to keep giving people a reason to come back to cinemas and enable them to enjoy the theatrical experience in different ways,” said Devang Sampat, chief executive officer, Cinepolis India, adding that these initiatives do not contribute much to overall footfalls of cinema chains and tickets for some premium sports matches may cost 75-80% higher than regular movies.
The move is likely to assume more significance in the coming years where cinemas will play more than just feature films, said Amit Sharma, chief executive officer, Miraj Cinemas. He attributed the high prices for alternative content to the fact that a typical match takes up more than four hours of screening time, versus two to two-and-a-half hours for a film.
While the Asia Cup matches managed draw in August, Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director at PVR Ltd said the company has been pleasantly surprised by the response to Japanese animation, including in small towns like Jabalpur, Allahabad and Ludhiana.
“Japanese anime is a significant part of our line-up now and we’ve tied up with studios in Japan to bring a new film to India every two to three months. We see traction for the genre not just in metros but in tier-two and tier-three towns too,” Bijli said, adding that content like sports matches warrant a community experience and much of the same holds true for music concerts and anime too.
Through verticals like Director’s Rare, PVR has released documentaries and independent films in foreign languages before the pandemic too, Bijli pointed out.
The universe of fans for such content is small, said Rajendar Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at INOX Leisure Ltd, though awareness is growing.
Jyala said multiplex chains have to be selective because if all content is played, audiences may lose interest in the strategy altogether. A recent BTS concert screening had sold 40,000 tickets across three to four shows at INOX.
“Movies will continue to be the first choice of the patrons, and the film exhibition business is secure. However, with changing times, the demands of customers are also changing. Watching content in a theatre is a great experience in itself. This is why we are looking into showcasing special content, which is intended to provide patrons with more options on a larger screen, making the experience better and more memorable,” said Ashish Kanakia, CEO, MovieMax.
The chain had showcased Asia Cup matches in its theatres, and will be screening additional live sports in the coming months, and will also collaborate with educational institutions to plan and showcase special content for kids.
A film trade analyst, however, said on condition of anonymity that alternative content was emerging as an additional stream of revenue at a time when most feature films were failing to lure audiences to cinemas. “It is hard to see where this would stand in the long term though, since much of this content may be available online for free,” the person said. Live Mint