Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Multiplying multiplexes

Writing about digital cinema screening techniques enriching customer experience got me thinking about the launch of multiplexes in India, specifically the PVR multiplex in Bangalore. Prior to PVR ( and its 11 screen multiplex), Bangalore was a city of sleepy cinemas (though there was the Innovative multiplex on the outskirts). There were a few dinosaur theaters in the centre of the city who charged a premium for narrow aisles, broken air conditioning, peeling paint, sad sound systems and touts who sold tickets in black.

The arrival of the 11 screen multiplex changed it all. Rather than pay 80 rupees for all the comforts described above, it was better to pay a 100 odd bucks and get a plush seat, good sounds, not having to buy tickets in black (why do they do it, we will explore it sometime), e-booking options and a mall attached (Forum). There are tickets priced at 500 rupees (which would be the black rate for a first day first show) per show with dinner thrown in.11 screens (with pricing differentials), effectively changed the cinema going experience in Bangalore.

All over India multiplexes have changed both audiences and cinema experiences in India. Unlike most foreign markets, India has reasonably profitable regional cinema (Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali among others) centers. Because of the proliferation of multiplexes, regional movies are released at places other than their place of origin to cater to those niche audiences (Tamil movies in Delhi, Malayalam movies in Bangalore etc); crossover cinema gets an audience and there are filmakers who recognise this audience and give them the fare they are looking for. These movies would not have found enough audience in the older system of larger theatres. Low budget movies for niche audiences suddenly seem lucrative to run at multiplexes.

PVR (and other multiplexes) are an example of how an efficient service delivered even at slight premium finds a lot of takers. Multiplexes are mushrooming all over India and this is a good sign for cinema as a whole.

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