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Recession? What recession?

india Updated: Jan 31, 2009 22:12 IST
Naomi Canton
Naomi Canton
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

With the economic crisis pinching wallets across the world, the Lokhandwala family has cut down on eating out and spending big. But there is something they won’t compromise on.

It’s the movies.

Even through the worst of the financial crisis, the Bollywood box office kept buzzing with some huge successes like Ghajini, Rock On! and Rab ne Bana Di Jodi, and even a low budget film like A Wednesday did well.

“We go out far less to restaurants than before. But we go to the movies as much as we did before the recession. If it’s a nice movie you just want to go,” says Altaf Lokhandwala, 37, who lives in an apartment in Mumbai’s Bandra neighbourhood with his wife Shabana, 34, eight year-old daughter Sara and extended family. The couple goes once a fortnight to multiplexes as well as single screens, spending Rs 180 to Rs 200 per ticket.

Multiplex owners endorse that trend.

For example, footfalls at Cinemax multiplexes and single screens are up eight to 10 per cent compared to the same quarter last year, and their average occupancy is 38 to 42 per cent, says chief financial officer Jitendra Mehta. “Every single cinema has shown an increase in viewers. Cinema-going seems to be recession-proof, but ultimately it depends on the content of the film,” he says.

In Bandra, the Lokhandwala family began cutting corners in their everyday life as soon as the impact of the economic crisis began to sink in. Expenses were evaluated to see whether they were “too expensive” or “unnecessary”.

The Lokhandwalas love eating out, and used to go to popular restaurants like Olive on a Thursday and Aurus on a Friday. They now eat at home.

“Everything is more expensive,” Shabana says. “Clothes are more expensive. If I don’t need it, I don’t buy it now. But I still like to go to the cinema. If we are not going out the entire week we will still go to see a film as it’s cheaper than eating out.”

The Lokhandwala family also reflects how Indian viewers might be becoming more discerning in what they want to see. “Ten years ago we would have watched any movie as the tickets were only Rs 20 to Rs 40. Now we don’t.

If a movie has a good review, we want to see it. It doesn’t matter if it has a star in it,” says Altaf. They did not watch Chandni Chowk to China because of the bad reviews.

And to many, moviegoing in times of recession is a stress-busting technique in times of uncertainty.

“The recession will improve our footfalls. You can see — Ghajini has broken all records. People want to feel happy at a time when they are feeling low,” says PVR Cinemas CEO Amitabh Vardhan. “And they want to go to the cinema as it is the cheapest form of entertainment,” he says.