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Uptick in movie biz prompts exhibitors to increase screen count in FY23

For a Hollywood film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which released on May 6, did roaring business in India during its opening weekend. It collected Rs 97 crore between Friday and Sunday, emerging as the second international film in six months after Spiderman: No Way Home to have a strong opening in the country.

A combination of good regional cinema, especially, films from the south, and Hollywood movies are helping film buffs make their way back to theatres. The uptick is prompting film exhibitors such as PVR, Inox and Cinepolis, the country’s top three multiplex chains, to increase their screen counts in the financial year 2022-23 (FY23), as they strive to reach more audiences.

The capacity addition (in terms of number of screens) of these players cumulatively this fiscal is over 50 per cent versus pre-Covid levels and will be funded through internal accruals. It comes right after they had slowed screen additions in FY21 and FY22 owing to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

PVR and Inox, for the uninitiated, are merging. However, the merger will take at least six to nine months to be completed, implying it is business as usual for the two players till then.

PVR, in particular, will add around 125 screens in FY23 from 80 screens it was adding annually before Covid-19. While Inox will add 77 screens in FY23 from 52 screens it added in FY20. And Cinepolis will add 60 screens this year from 40 screens it added pre-Covid.

“We are doubling down on our investments and if everything goes as planned, this year (FY23) we will break our own record of the maximum number of screens opened in a year in India,” Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director, PVR, said. The company is lining up Rs 350-400 crore in terms of capital expenditure for its screen additions in FY23.

At the end of FY22, PVR had 854 screens across 173 cinemas in 74 cities. During a call with analysts following its Q4 results on Monday, the management had indicated that it would touch the 1,000-screen-mark by Q1 of FY24.

Alok Tandon, chief executive officer (CEO), Inox Leisure, said last week in an earnings call that the company remained bullish about screen additions in the future. “The phenomenal end to FY22 has provided us with a launchpad for FY23, where we have planned to open 77 screens. Based on the agreements already signed, I would like to share that post FY23, we have nearly 117 properties, 840 screens with 1.53 lakh seats in the pipeline.”

Inox closed FY22 with 681 screens across 161 properties in 72 cities. It has lined up a capex of around Rs 300 crore for its new screen additions in FY23, according to analysts.

Devang Sampat, CEO, Cinepolis India, said the 60 screen additions this financial year by the company would be the highest for it in any given year. “Movie halls are buzzing and people want to go out and watch films after two years of restricted living. This is the opportune time for movie exhibitors to capitalise on this trend,” he said.

Cinepolis closed FY22 with 412 screens across 80 properties in 42 cities. It has lined up a capex of around Rs 200 crore in FY23 for its new screen additions, Sampat said.

Experts say that the domestic film industry would gain momentum in the months ahead as Bollywood got its mojo back. “While south and Hollywood films are doing well right now, it is only a matter of time before Bollywood begins to catch up,” said Shyam Shroff, chairman, Shringar Films, a Mumbai-based film distribution company.

The second half of the 2022 calendar year will see movies such as Laal Singh Chaddha, starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Brahmastra, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, hit theatres. The south industry, meanwhile, will release titles such as Vikram, starring Kamal Haasan in June, Vikrant Rona, starring Kannada actor Sudeep in July, and Liger, starring Telugu actor Vijay Deverakonda in August. The Hindu BusinessLine

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