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COVID-19 impact: In a first, drive-in theatres to hold movie premieres

ZEEL to release Bollwood flick Khaali Peeli and Tamil film Ka Pae Ranasingam at its drive-in movie festival. Here’s the lowdown

September 28, 2020 / 08:07 PM IST

Companies like PVR, INOX and Carnival are reportedly looking at drive-in cinemas in markets like Delhi, Bengaluru, and Kochi, among others.

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Drive-in theatres, which were otherwise limited to playing classics such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and where the viewer’s attention may not always be on the screen, will now host movie premieres.  Zee Entertainment Enterprise Limited’s (ZEEL) out-of-home vertical Zee Live, under its banner Supermoon, is facilitating the release of two new ventures — a Bollywood flick and a Tamil film — at its first drive-in movie festival. The two films will be exhibited between October 2 and 4, in Gurugram and Bengaluru.

The drive-in festival at Gurugram’s Backyard Sports Club in Sector 59 will feature Ananya Pandey and Ishaan Khattar-starrer Khaali Peeli. Bengaluru’s movie buffs will also get to watch Ka Pae Ranasingam in Phoenix Marketcity, Whitefield.

The premieres, which are a first for Bollywood and Kollywood since the national lockdown was announced in March, will take place even as mainstream exhibitors PVR and Inox remain shut because of Covid.

 In the comfort of your car


COVID-19 Vaccine

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Films premiering at drive-theatres is new but are audiences buying tickets?

Swaroop Banerjee, COO of Zee Live, says there is demand. “We are seeing traction and we are close to 65 percent booking on all shows across the two cities. This shows that the consumer is willing to come and one major reason for this is new movies coming to drive-in theatres. Also, the reason for us to do drive-ins was for families who want to come out in the current times — —it is mostly family audiences buying these shows.”

While the tickets for Supermoon’s drive-in movie festival cost Rs 999, this is not per individual but for a car. And a car can have two people or more depending on regulations in each State.

“Each show will accommodate 100 cars and the number of people in the car depends on the State regulation. We will be doing six shows in total between October 2 and 4. One show in the afternoon at 4 pm and the other in the evening at 7 pm,” said Banerjee.

 Movies, popcorn and safety: A drive-in has it all

And this on-ground movie watching experience will not be without popcorn or your favourite cola.

Tickets, food and beverages (F&B) can be booked in advance through two apps, BookMyShow and Paytm Insider. People will get packaged F&B at the venue. “When a car enters the venue, there will be verification via the Arogya Setu app, and a temperature check. After that the car is fumigated, and when you exit the fumigation tunnel, consumers get their F&B pack that is pre-ordered,” Banerjee explained.

“After the safety protocols, people will be ushered to a spot depending on the type of car they have — hatchback, sedan or SUV — as the height of the car should not be a hindrance in viewing. Each car will be at a distance of 10 feet by 10 feet. In a two-hour movie, there will be a 20-minute interval. And for the two new offerings, there will be a personal shoutout from the stars, including Ishaan, Ananya and Aishwarya, who have recorded bytes for the audience,” said  Are drive-ins viable?Banerjee.

While everything Banerjee says sounds both exciting and interesting, the question really is about how viable drive-in cinemas are in India.

“For us drive-ins are viable because in our case the movie is from the house of Zee Studios. So, with such partnerships, investments come down. Also, you will be hearing of the Supermoon drive-in as a regular feature for all new movies under Zee Plex (a new pay-per-view movie service that will be available on both television and digital platforms). Even after theatres reopen we will continue featuring new movies under the drive-in model, even if movies go to theatre,” said Banerjee.

 Drive-in plans

While drive-in theatres are not new to India, this format has been buzzing since theatres had to shut down due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.

In fact, many multiplex players, including PVR and Carnival, have shown interest in the drive-in theatre concept.

While PVR has been working on building a drive-in theatre called Jio World Drive in Mumbai’s BKC (Bandra Kurla Complex), for Carnival, the decision to work on drive-ins has been driven by the impact the coronavirus situation has had on cinema halls.

Carnival is looking to come up with drive-in theatres in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kochi and other locations. However, theatre owners won’t find it easy to take the drive-in concept to Indian audiences.

This is because there are many challenges. The first challenge is content, as new films do not release in drive-in theatres.

Another challenge is the investment as it could cost around Rs 3 to 8 crore to set up a drive-in theatre.

Another big hurdle, as Alok Tandon, CEO of Inox Leisure had pointed out an interview with a daily, is getting a large expanse of land that is not too far from a city’s centre.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Sep 28, 2020 02:07 pm
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