Does the exhibition sector need any help from the government to grow? Which new innovative features Cinepolis are slated to usher in to make the cinema experience better for viewers? Have the OTT platforms eaten into the theatrical business?
In an exclusive interview with The New Indian, the CEO of Cinepolis India Devang Sampat answers all these questions. Here are the edited excerpts:
Q: Is the business of the Indian film industry back to pre-pandemic levels?
A: The box-office results clearly show that not only people are back but back with a bang. At Cinepolis, we follow data quite closely. So, just to put things in perspective, the footfalls in March, April and May this year have been higher than the monthly average footfalls in 2019. This indicates that people are flocking to theatres. It’s not just about one film be it ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, ‘RRR’, or ‘The Kashmir Files’, but the overall business scenario is now the same as pre-pandemic.
Q: During the pandemic, there was a lot of chatter that the OTT platforms will severely dent the revenue of cinema halls as people now prefer to watch movies at home. How do you look at competition with the OTT platforms?
A: Revenue from the OTT platforms is only helping producers to make bigger and better content. Earlier, the only stream of revenue for producers was money from the theatrical business. Then satellite channels came to the horizon and now OTT platforms have opened another avenue for them, though theatrical business still contributes the lion’s share of overall revenue. You want to welcome new streams of revenue as it eventually helps exhibitors.
When video cassettes came, everyone thought cinema halls won’t survive its onslaught. The exhibition section was written off once again when DVDs became the rage. So, we were not too concerned about these kinds of talks. Cinema is a social activity which is best enjoyed with people on the big screen. That won’t change. OTT platforms and cinema halls complement each other and can easily co-exist.
Q: Is Cinepolis thinking of expanding and adding more screens? How about bringing out some innovative facilities which can make the movie experience better for the audiences?
A: Absolutely. So look, Cinepolis has always believed in innovation. We were the first one to launch 4DX in India. Cinepolis was the first to bring world-class 3D technology to India in the true sense. We were the first ones to bring coffee shops to cinema halls. We have always strived for innovation which we will continue to do.
We have about 46 screens which are under various stages of development. We will be taking up about 54 more screens in a maximum of one quarter. We will see to it that our expansion journey goes back to pre-pandemic levels.
Q: The exhibition sector generates immense revenue for the government, besides employing a lot of people. Is there anything you want the government to take notice of? How can the government chip in so that the exhibition sector grows and becomes bigger?
A: Look, you’ve touched upon a very important point. We don’t need any specific help from the government but want the ease of doing business. Single-window clearance, I think, is the need of the hour for the exhibition sector. At present, we have to plod through 30-odd No Objections Certificates (NOCs).
So instead of going through various authorities and running around door-t0-door, the single-window clearance will bring about tremendous ease and will expedite the growth of the exhibition sector.