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We can add 150 odd screens in the next 3 years: Carnival Cinemas CEO Mohan Umrotkar

The multiplex chain is cautiously putting money in marketing

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MUMBAI: Multiplexes are driving the growth of screen counts in India and considerably the major chains are now not limiting their objective to expansion but also focusing on premium experience. National multiplex chain Carnival Cinemas, one of the top four players in the segment, has been expanding rapidly in the last couple of years. After achieving a good growth in screen counts on the back of multiple acquisitions, it is now prioritising an upgraded cinematic experience.

Recently, Carnival Cinemas struck a deal with TSR Films to convert all its existing and new screens into Laser in the next five years. Talking to Indiantelevision.com, Carnivals Cinema CEO Mohan Umrotkar spoke on the deal along with its marketing strategy, expansion plan, etc.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What is the nature and aim of the partnership?

TSR is the exclusive Christie RGB laser projectors provider in India. We have struck a deal with the TSR where they will supply 350 projectors over the next three years. It's a partnership of a supply agreement under which rate contract has been fixed, the quantity has been fixed and of course, this is again extendable for the quantity of future independent requirements. As of now considering our existence scheme and the plan that we have for the expansion, we expect to have 600-odd projectors which we can buy out over the next five years.

Are you looking at more changes in terms of new technology?

In terms of the infrastructure, we have already made major changes. Customers were able to see the changes when entering the cinema on the basis of the first interactions at lobby, auditorium, and toilet. This is nothing but the aesthetical changes; the infrastructure changes. So the next question was where we are engaging with the customer for the maximum period of time. Anybody who's visiting the cinema, I think he's more interested in the sound and the picture. And that's the heart of this. If you don't get a proper sound, picture quality, ideal experience is incomplete despite having a good lobby, premium Italian marble and chandelier. But if your projection system is not good, your sound is not good, experience is not good. Hence we thought of the latest technology. Nobody has even thought about using RGB Laser projectors in the multiplex chains, we are the first one to implement that. Apart from that I don't think so much technical changes are required now and all the other changes maybe with ticketing systems which are already there. So those are the core to the business is a projection system or a sound system.

How much money have you put in for the new deal?

The total investment for the deal in the next three years will be closer to around Rs 200 crore. Again, go up to at least 70 per cent to 80 per cent. Because then we are again talking about adding another 250 projectors, proportionate monies. So it will be roughly in the range of Rs 350 crore.

Could you talk about your expansion plan in 2020?

So if you see the past, we have also added close to around 70 to 80 screens in the last two years. Considering the market scenario, we will probably not add that more screens, but we can roughly add around 50 odd screens each year. And this is organic growth. Obviously, there is a plan for inorganic growth but that all depends upon what kind of opportunity is available, and what kind of deal is available. But organically we can easily add 150 odd screens in the next three years.

What about your expansion plan beyond big cities?

There’s still scope to grow in tier one, tier two obviously. To go beyond that, we have a different model which is called a Jalsa which is you know the low-cost cinema model which we are already doing. And in this entire expansion, I am not counting those screens because those are the new markets in which we also want to explore. So that's additional numbers which we're talking about.

What will be your marketing strategy in near future?

In the last one year, we have decided to spend money wisely. We have decided to advertise in a more sensible manner rather than just deciding to put so much of money into the news or so much of money on television. What we are promoting is the cinema because eventually the movie has been promoted by the producer and we are not the content owner. So wherever there is a new cinema name or wherever there is a renovation happening, we are just focusing on the property, we are showing this is a unique property. Marketing strategy is also depending on what is a cheap yet effective medium and that can be OOH or television. The overall marketing budget is around 1 per cent of the top line. We try to do more direct marketing, or we try to take the help of the social media, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and e-mailers to our 50 million patrons annually. Because what we see is direct marketing, w the more effective way.

How do you see the scope of growth for multiplexes in India?

In India we are still around 9000-odd screens whereas almost 130 crore population. 2000 movies are being produced every year and the country is also vast. I am not saying that if China or the US have 50,000 screens, we should also have in the same range. To start with as a bare minimum, we should have anything between 25-30,000.

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