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Single screen cinemas struggle

RENOVATE, CONVERT or adjust seems to be the mantra as single screen cinema owners try to upgrade their facilities in the wake of depleting revenues caused by the recent influx of multiplexes.

india Updated: May 28, 2006 14:01 IST

RENOVATE, CONVERT or adjust seems to be the mantra as single screen cinema owners try to upgrade their facilities in the wake of depleting revenues caused by the recent influx of multiplexes.

And bringing about this competition is the five-screen PVR situated in Treasure Island and INOX at Sapna Sangeeta. The ball was set rolling by the City’s first multiplex – the three-screen Velocity – in 2003. Velocity drew huge crowds initially and its weekly earnings were upwards of Rs 11 lakh for a good film.

Velocity offered completely new entertainment package that was a novel experience for viewers. There was Café Coffee Day, a bookstore, a restaurant - Lion’s Den - and Home Décor store.

Velocity had the latest technology when it opened, but the technology and comfort brought in by PVR and INOX made that look archaic. PVR’s advantage was its presence at Treasure Island, the latest one-point destination for many an Indorean.
Says Velocity general manager Mishra, “The number of people going to multiplexes is increasing because of the total experience.

PVR undoubtedly is affecting our business, but Velocity is at par with INOX in terms of earnings and facilities,’’ he says frankly.

“Collections are bound to get divided when players in the market increase. If numerous single screen theatres could co-exist in the City until recently, multiplexes would also slowly fit in the scene,” he says optimistically.

Mishra is not, however, shutting his eyes to competition. He is prepared and says that apart from changes in pricing mechanism, Velocity has launched advertising campaigns and would introduce many more changes in future.

Another major player among single screen theatres, Manmandir, too, is feeling the heat. Jagdish Sharma of Manmandir plans to watch the market and then gradually make some changes to draw in audiences.

m says that Manmandir was the destination for those people who wanted a good experience, but could not afford the multiplex tickets.

Even after the advent of the first multiplex the situation was far better than at present. Sharma hopes that the people would realise the benefits of the single screen theatres soon. And till then, he has chosen to wait and watch.

Another factor that has curbed the business of single screen theatres is the low ticket rates, discounts and gifts offered by the multiplexes. INOX and Velocity have reduced ticket rates for some front rows during each show.

These changes have attracted moviegoers towards multiplexes. Madhumilan, the Cineplex near railway station, was a single screen theatre at one time. Madhumilan manager Vinesh Shah says that the owners of this theatre understood the benefits of converting from a single screen to multi-screen.

The paucity of space, however, restricted them from making it a multiplex. After converting to Cineplex, the business got better but the balcony audience has reduced by 40-50 per cent, added Vinesh.

The case of Big B and Aastha is not much different. Aastha owner Pradeep Kasliwal recently invested around Rs 8 lakh to bring in new sound system, lighting and coolers.

Aastha manager L G Jain agrees that customers of balcony have reduced, as they prefer the front rows in multiplexes at low rates. With recent upgrading, this theatre expects to get back some at least of those viewers.

About pricing, he says that they are already competitively priced. Big B manager I P Bakshi said that the crowd now goes to multiplexes and weekly collections from movies have gone down. Bakshi says they have no immediate renovation plans. He explains that for converting a theatre into multiplex, availability of funds, space and many other resources has to be ensured.

Film distributor Chandulal Goyal agrees that ‘A’ class single screen theatres are lagging behind multiplexes in terms of earnings. Goyal said that PVR undoubtedly was the leader at present. In terms of collections, PVR earnings were more than the combined figures from INOX and Velocity, he added.

That ‘big’ is here to stay can be gauged from collection figures. For example, 36 China Town raked in about Rs 14.00 lakh in its first week in Indore, with PVR alone making a collection of Rs 6.84 lakh. In comparison, Velocity’s collection was about Rs 3.15 lakh and INOX about Rs 2.87 lakh. In comparison collection for the same movie in Astha was just Rs 35,000. If the figures are anything to by, the writing on the wall is clear – upgrade or perish.