All old Gold screens in Mumbai will be rebranded and kitted out like the Luxe facility with ticket rates for being Rs 500 onwards
PVR ICON, the theatre near the denizens of Mumbai's Lower Parel vicinity, located in the posh precincts of Phoenix mall finally reopened the doors of its seven screens of which two offer an uber luxurious experience to its patrons.
In the more affluent areas like Kurla and Versova, PVR's Gold Class properties will be transformed into PVR Luxe. In fact, all old Gold screens (in Mumbai) will be rebranded and kitted out like the Luxe facility with ticket rates for being Rs 500 onwards.
Ajay Bijli, Chairman & Managing Director of PVR Cinemas, addressed the media about their new product. At a time when exhibitors are struggling to get the audience back for more despite higher ticket prices, a step in the direction of Luxe, which offers a hospitality experience in addition to a sound viewing experience at a higher price, seems counterintuitive but Bijli is confident that its the right call.
"When I first opened and designed PVR Phoenix, there was only a Sole Curry, Fire & Ice (a nightclub), a McDonald's and a Big Bazaar and the crowd was very young. And then Palladium and St Regis came and the whole place changed. There was Burberry, Gucci—and my place started looking like an outdated nightclub, and I thought that we need to respond to the new demographic which is coming to this property. The other thought was that we are in a very good catchment prime area so we must now completely revamp it so that people are surprised."
He agreed that ticket prices for the Luxe brand would be higher, adding, "I am running a business so it has to be viable. I am hoping the ticket prices we are charging will not pinch people. We have the same grid-Monday to Thursday it is cheaper for students etc while Friday (not the whole day), Saturday, Sunday are the peak days. Luxe will be separately priced. We are running a market-driven company so we have to look at factors like catchment, competition, movie-going habits and price points people are happy or not happy about."
According to a FICCI report from 2018, multiplexes have grown over the last few years at a 10 percent rate despite higher ticket prices. However, it is the smaller towns with lower rentals that offer greater scope for expansion for plexes. An upgraded viewing experience, therefore, becomes a good way to draw the more discerning elite audience in big cities.
"We have to be very careful about which product we are giving where otherwise my pricing will go haywire. So this concept I can't plonk in Aurangabad. The average Capex per screen is Rs 3 crores. In metros, the contribution is higher by around 30 percent compared to tier II and III cities," shares Bijli.
Exhibitor and distributor Shyam Shroff (Shringar Films) supports the contention of picking the right locations, "This concept (of luxury theatrical experience) will work only in select locations of big cities where the purchasing power is higher than other centres and the quality of movie content being screened."
Countering the common perception that multiplex tickets are too expensive for the Indian consumer, Bijli points out, "People that go to expensive CBD areas like South Delhi, South Mumbai or Juhu they take those perceptions back. The ticket price for Avengers on a Saturday night is what they take back but in reality, the average ticket price of PVR ticket is 200. We (PVR) have 771 screens in about 63 cities and 168 locations. LUXE ticket price starts from Rs. 500. Then you have got other players, Carnival, Cinepolis, Mirage, Wave who are also making multiplexes and at different price points. I am conscious that it is a heterogeneous market with different price points and we are providing a solution at every price point."
While the temptation of staying home and watching films and other content on OTT platforms is a challenge for exhibitors, Bijli is of the opinion that exhibition industry all over the world must understand that people have choices and that the experience (in theatres) has to be completely different from what you have at home. "We want the consumer to feel 'Wow. I am glad I am here.'"A recent Deloitte report on the Indian film industry projected box office collections for 2020 at $3.7 billion of which a big chunk is expected to come from the top multiplex chains. Given that reality, PVR's premium gamble could well pay off.
Get Lok Sabha 2019 Live Election Results, constituency-wise tally, news, views and analysis
Follow our Lok Sabha Election Result Live Blog here.