‘Cinema houses will always be preferred for watching new movies’

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A renovated Inox multiplex is quite the showstopper of IFFI celebrations this year with delegates at the film festival declaring the smart looks a hit. The refurbished theatre with its beautified lounge, stunning ceiling and high-tech acoustics, sound systems, projection systems is all super glamorous. Here Alok Tandon, CEO, Inox Leisure Ltd., talks on the new changes in the multiplex. He says to Shoma Patnaik that the company is extremely delighted to have created a cinematic marvel and that cinema houses will bounce back to normalcy once the pandemic subsides.

Q. The renovated Inox is receiving the thumbs up from all. How does it compare with the other multiplexes in the industry?

The new multiplex is much more vibrant, colorful and youthful now than the earlier avatar. This is going to be the first such Inox in the country which would have all the auditoriums equipped with Dolby Atmos sound, the next level of sound technology.

Screen 1 in this multiplex will have our very own premium large format experience, called the Bigpix in the near future. The reason this format is called so is the sheer huge size of the screen, which extends from the floor to the ceiling of the auditorium vertically and from one wall to the other horizontally. Bigpix offers a stadium like experience to the audience who can enjoy their favorite blockbusters in a unique environment.

Luxury, service and technology have always been the core of our projects, and Inox Panaji, is going to be no different. The 1,212- seater multiplex will be served with an ultra luxurious lounge, besides a vibrant concession counter, which would serve the choicest menu options.

In all, we are extremely delighted to have created a cinematic marvel, which would be a feather in the cap of the state, and would be a treat for the movie lovers of not only Goa, but the entire country.

Q. The Inox theatre at Panaji is almost a landmark in Goa. How important is the theatre to Inox Leisure in the overall business strategy?

Being given the responsibility of hosting the IFFI by the Ministry of I&B and the government of Goa is an honor for us, and we take immense pride in playing our part for more than one and half decade now. Besides fetching an amazing amount of brand equity, IFFI exposes us to the most renowned professionals from the global film industry, and as cinema operators, you cannot ask for more.

Q. Is Goa an important market for the company?

We are operating four multiplexes in Goa with 14 screens and more than 3,200 seats. With this kind of infrastructure, we are already the largest multiplex operator in the state. With this comes a responsibility, and I am glad that we have been fulfilling it with a lot of care and warmth towards the movie lovers of Goa.

Q. Do you have plans to have more multiplexes in the state in future?

We have never shied away from any opportunity of growth and expansion. If there’s any opportunity with a feasible catchment and audience potential, we will surely consider it. With four multiplexes and 14 screens, we already have share a very strong bond with the state of Goa.

Q. Goans are worried that ticket prices in the multiplex will be jacked up to recover the cost of renovation? Your comment.

Neither has Inox ever compromised on investments in enhancement of services and infrastructure, nor we would ever let it impact the ticket prices. When we compute the ticket price, we make sure that we never overprice ourselves, and stay within the paying propensity of the target consumers.

Q. Cinema houses in Goa were given permission to reopen from October 15, 2020. What was the re-opening experience like in the state?

We opened our cinemas gradually, as per operational readiness, and now all our cinemas are operating. The footfalls have been increasing with a slew of new releases hitting the screen.

Q. Is operating at 50 per cent capacity a constraint on bouncing back to normalcy?

While we know that absolute normalcy can only be achieved with 100 per cent seating, but at the same time, we are committed towards the country’s battle against COVID, and are therefore complying with all the necessary regulations and restrictions.

We believe that with a large part of the employed population working from home, the pull for cinema visits will get evenly distributed across all seven days of the week, and all days of the month, and we will see our guests opting for flexibility, which would allow us to deal with the 50 per cent capacity restriction smoothly.

Q. In 2021 we are still coming out of the pandemic. How do you look at the situation for the cinema industry this year?

We are of a firm belief that we are a couple of blockbusters away from returning to normalcy. We are fortunate to have a massively enticing lineup of blockbusters in 2021, which makes us call the year, the Year of Cinema Entertainment.

We will see massive movies like Sooryavanshi, 83, Bell Bottom, Jersey, Bhuj, Radhe, Sam, Maidaan and Laal Singh Chaddha, to name a few. The established franchisees would come out with sequels Hera Pheri 3, Golmaal 5, Satyamev Jayate 2, No Entry 2 and a few more. Hollywood collections are expected to peak with releases like Mortal Kombat, No Time To Due, Black Widow, Top Gun: Maverick and MI7 during the year.  

With Master already having done phenomenally well, we are looking forward to movies like KGF Chapter 2, Vakeel Sahab and Red releasing in multiple regional languages, which would ensure that 2021 will begin with a bang. Other major releases in the south like RRR, Aranya, Wild Dog, Red etc will also bring massive crowds to the cinemas.

Q. Pandemic changed the movie-watching habits of consumers. Everybody is hooked on to Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services? Do you think people will come back to the multiplexes to watch movies?

We have to understand that the emergence of OTT as an alternate movie watching option is purely a result of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, and not due to the cinemas’ incapability to draw crowds. So once the pandemic subsides, vaccines become available, content flow gets back to normal, we believe that the movie lovers will throng the cinemas like never before.

As it is clearly visible from the performance of movies like Master, Wonder Woman 84 and Tenet, the core of the cinema exhibition industry is the passion and fondness for the giant screen experience, prevalent in the Indian masses, and I can confidently say that the 7-8 month long shutdown could not challenge that passion and fondness. This further strengthens our belief that people will come back to cinemas and future of cinemas is only going to get brighter.

Also, we have to look at the consumption habits and patterns of both the platforms, their unique characteristics, and the nature of content consumed by the audiences. Web series, documentaries and old blockbusters are more popular among the audiences, while cinemas will remain the preferred mode for consuming brand new movie releases.

Inox, Panaji, first solar powered cinema house in Goa

Post renovation Inox Panaji is partially solar powered. It is the first cinema house of the state that has gone in for solar energy. The solar panels are installed on the multiplex building so that some of the theater’s energy consumption is powered by the sun.

Expenditure on electricity and power is a major outgo for all cinema theaters and the solar power system of the multiplex is expected to help reduce the cost of power. The solar energy capacity is of 120 Kw. It is not yet activated and expected to be activated soon, according to the company.