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IPL bombs at multiplexes

entertainment Updated: Mar 25, 2010 14:30 IST
Highlight Story

Had a film opened to 10 to 15 per cent occupancy in the multiplexes, it would have been dubbed a flop with no hope saving face even with positive word-of- mouth publicity. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Indian Premiere League (IPL) Season 3 that started off with abysmal
collections in its first theatrical run.

Top bosses at the multiplexes are quick to defend the ‘flop’ run, pointing out that in the second week there was a definite increase in numbers, even during weekdays. Collections peaked during weekends, going up to a credible 35 per cent, which is more than what some of the recent films have been earning since Sachin Tendulkar, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist took the field.

Blame it on the telecast rights if you must, but no multiplex can screen a match ‘live’ if it’s being played in the same city. That apart, two film shows need to be cancelled to screen a match. “That’s why screening one match is equivalent to showing two movies,” explains Shirish Handa, senior VP marketing, Fun Cinemas.

He adds, “I agree that business is average. In fact, in the initial days, occupancy was as low as five per cent, even though India is a cricket crazy nation. Another reason is that there are far too many outlets where you can watch the game for free, like pubs, bars and restaurants.”

Amitabh Vardhan, CEO, PVR Cinemas, endorses the fact that the business is catching up as compared to the first week. He is optimistic that it will get better in the coming weeks. “The fact that occupancy has gone up from 15-20 per cent in the first weekend to 35 per cent in the second week is proof of that,” he argues.

“If Mumbai Indians are playing a match outside the city, then multiplexes in the city definitely register an increase in collections,” he says.

Utpal Acharya, CEO, Inox Cinemas, agrees, “There is a noticeable boost in ticket sales when a regional team is playing. Like when Rajasthan Royals plays, cinemas in Jaipur register around 70 to 80 per cent of collections.”

However, Ashish Saxena, CEO, Big Cinemas, opines that screening of IPL matches is an experiment to look into alternate content, apart from the regular movies.

“We all wanted to give it a shot. The response is better than we expected and it’s good that occupancy is increasing by the week,” he states. He accepts the fact that collections till now are not substantial but is confident they will peak in the last two weeks. With only the true blue enthusiasts venturing to see the matches, Big Cinemas has initiated value additions, like contests and IPL special meals.

In lieu of the slow start and the fact that occupancy is yet to reach 50 per cent, multiplex owners reiterate that it remains to be seen if they can break even. “If we don’t recover costs by the end of the season, then we will have to re-negotiate the deal with the UFO,” says Handa.

“In the current scenario, I think it makes more sense to screen only semi-finals and final matches in the theatres. That way, we can come up with attractive package deals but that’s not possible for daily screenings,” he adds.

Matches in 3D?
Sharing the sentiment, another multiplex head says, “Although we can recover operational costs, the company can’t make money on ticket sales.”

On the plus side, multiplexes are are excited about the semi-finals and grand finale. Talks are on to telecast the matches in 3D format. “We’re still working on the logistics. If it comes through, great,” says Saxena.

According to Vardhan, sports in 3D is common across the world but will be a new phenomenon in India. He says, “Over the next 10 days, the technical confirmation should come in. If the deal works out, we can be sure of full houses.”