The state government’s plan to make Marathi film screenings compulsory at prime time – which it defines as the 12pm-9pm slot – has prompted management heads of multiplexes to question the definition of prime time.
Devang Sampat, business head, strategic initiative, Cinepolis, said, “The definition of prime time varies from genre to genre and you cannot term it as one. What works for one film may not work for the other.” Vishal Anand, head of operations, Fun Cinemas, said, “For Timepass, it was 11am, because the audience for that film was the youth. Lai Bhaari, on the other hand, was for a more mature audience of the age group 25-40, so prime time for that was post 6pm. For The Fast and the Furious 7, morning shows were 95% full, while there was 60-65% occupancy for the rest of the day, which means mostly college students came in. An English adult or horror film will enjoy prime time post 9pm. It’s not the same for all.”
Multiplex heads are of the opinion that instead of giving the diktat to block one screen in every theatre, they should be given the choice to select theatres area-wise. PV Sunil, CEO, Carnival Cinemas, said, “A Marathi film will run better in areas that are populated by Maharashtrians. What will work in the Chembur-Mulund zone will not work in south Mumbai. So giving us the freedom to choose will be ideal.”
Vishal said, “When you have a Marathi film playing at prime time, it is good. As exhibitors, we don’t distinguish between languages. We want to run films that the audience will see. Barring four to five weeks a year when you have big releases, the other weeks we’re struggling to find people. Occupancy is just about 25%. The onus of providing good content now lies with producers of Marathi films. If they have the prime time available, they might as well utilise it well. But what they lack right now are production values, which are not at par with Hindi films.”
Speaking about the ticket prices, he said, “The ticket prices of Marathi films are 40-50% less than that for Hindi films. The makers will have to exploit the benefit that the government is allowing them.”