Multiplexes hit by World Cup, firm up alternate content

MUMBAI: A drought of big ticket film releases is forcing multiplexes to turn to alternate content during the cricket World Cup as they do not want their revenues to be badly mauled.

PVR, the only multiplex to show the World Cup matches, is seeing a 4-5 percentage drop in occupancy. For the two India matches that the multiplex major has shown so far, the occupancy has gone up dramatically.

"We are only showing the India matches across our nine properties. The occupancy for these matches has been between 50-70 per cent, way ahead of last year‘s IPL (Indian Premier League) which was as low as 4-5 per cent," says PVR Group president Pramod Arora.

PVR expects a drop in its fourth-quarter revenues over the year-ago period due to poor content and the World Cup. "We normally see a 25-26 per cent occupancy in the last quarter of the fiscal. This will slide further due to the World Cup. And don‘t forget, we had 3 Idiots in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal. We have had very poor software this quarter," says Arora.

So will the broadcast of the World Cup matches on the PVR theatres not have a cushioning effect?

"We will definitely do better than the other multiplex chain operators. The South Indian side of the business is not impacted. The northern region is hurt and the western belt is partially impacted due to the festivals that we have run. We are showcasing the World Cup not so much from the commercial point of view but to reinforce PVR as a top-of-the-mind brand," says Arora.

Cinemax expects to blunt the impact of the World Cup to some extent due to the differentiated content that it has lined up. "We have dropped the ticket prices by 30 per cent and come out with a month-long national film festival by the name of ‘Cinemax Movie Marathon‘. We are getting in a different kind of audience to sample our content. This is how we have managed to see an occupancy of 20-22 per cent, an almost five per cent drop due to the cricket season (same fall as last year due to the IPL). The revenue this quarter will stay flat compared to the same period last fiscal as we have added properties," says Cinemax India chief executive officer Sunil Punjabi.

The ‘Movie Marathon‘, held from 4 to 31 March, has been designed on themes. The inaugural week will have a sci-fi film festival that will showcase the best of Hollywood science fictions like Inception, Avatar and 2012 among others. Week two, from 11 to 17 March, has been dedicated to Tamil superstar Rajnikant and named Rajnikant Film Festival. The whole week will show two of the superstar‘s films - Robot and Sivaji-The boss.

The pan-India Regional Film Festival will follow in week three from 18 to 24 March. In this, there would be film festivals of regional language at various centres. There will, thus, be a Marathi film festival in Maharashtra, a Telugu film festival in Andhra Pradesh and a Bengali film festival in West Bengal.

The Multilingual Film Festival, to be held from 25 to 31 March, will screen films of four Indian languages - Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam and Telugu. There are movies like Pangira, Ideachi Kalpana, Magadheera, Maryada Ramanna, Mommy & Me, Pokkri Raja, Ekti Tarar Khoje, Autograph and Challenge.

Big Cinemas has unleashed a spate of Oscar-winning films for its patrons.

Reliance MediaWorks CEO Anil Arjun, however, did not want to comment on how big the impact of the World Cup will be on the company‘s film exhibition business.

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