Resurrection of the single screen cinemas in India
Entertainment today is nothing less than a NEED for people from any segment of the Indian society. Be it a business tycoon or a taxi driver on the streets of Mumbai, everybody loves to be entertained! The most popular form of entertainment in India is undoubtedly movies, which is proven by the kind of fan following artistes and movies in India enjoy! Hundreds of people stand under ‘Mannat‘, the house of the Indian superstar ‘King’- Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), every evening, hoping to catch a glimpse of their idol!
The presence of Indians in every nook and corner of the globe, who crave for Hindi movies, has attracted corporate that have pumped in a lot of money into every section of the entertainment industry, including production, distribution and exhibition.
Today, companies like PVR, Cinemax, Inox Leisure, Adlabs and Shringar cinemas have built multiplexes in almost all important film markets and are beginning to venture into the interiors too! The amount of money they have raised enables them to aggressively expand their markets and grow their customer base.
The multiplex revolution deserves a pat on the back for bringing back the audience into cinema halls, which had otherwise taken to watching movies on pirated DVD’s or were hit by the K fever on the television! The whole ‘multiplex experience’ caught the fancy of the people who were starved of novel forms of entertainment and made them trace their steps back into cinema halls.
With the growth of multiplexes, people started to believe that the good old single screen cinema halls will die a natural death and will be completely replaced by the multiplexes. However, on the contrary, many single screen cinema hall owners, including my family which runs a chain of single screens in central India, decided to hold on to our cinemas rather than working out deals with the multiplex chains to sell or lease out our cinema halls or withdrawing ourselves from the business. This was because of our belief that even the single screen cinemas could provide a unique experience, which if I may say so is unmatchable!
High-tech single screen
Even before the multiplexes came into operation in the markets, where we run our cinemas, we geared ourselves up to face the competition they would put up. This included making available all the amenities and comforts that the multiplexes provide, in our single screen halls. The luxurious seats, food courts, gaming zones, foyers with an appealing ambience, the latest sound systems and projectors, LCD screens playing popular music videos and cricket matches that kept eyeballs glued to the screen and a lot more came into the theatres which amused the audience and gave them more than what they expected or were used to, thus not just satisfying them, but even delighting them!
Apart from renovating the cinema halls and making the experience of the cine-goers at the cinema even more entertaining, we believe that the charm of watching a movie in a single screen hall’s ambience is absolutely unmatchable! Let me give you the example of one of my own cinema halls.
Raincoats and Krrish
We screened the blockbuster movie ‘Krrish’ in our chain’s Raj talkies in the city of Raipur in the central state of Chhatisgarh. I was at the cinema hall to supervise the release as it was a major event. It was mid June, and it was raining heavily in the region. As a customary practice for the so-called big movies in our part of the country, we had planned screenings, beginning from 6 in the morning on the day of the release! In spite of the heavy rainfall, we were pleasantly surprised to see people walking in with their raincoats in large numbers to catch the flick!
In no time, we had the ‘House Full’ board up at the box office! From the very first scene where film star Hrithik Roshan makes an entry, racing with a horse till the end credits started to roll on the screen, we had a packed house of more than 1120 people whistling, clapping and cheering by throwing their raincoats up in the air in delight! What could have been a better sight for a film exhibitor than this!
The bigger the mob the greater the thrill. The audience reacts with huge enthusiasm collectively in single screen cinema halls, making the experience completely unique and exciting. The applause is roaring. On the other hand, even the funniest scene in a movie, screening in a multiplex, manages a mild laughter, which sometimes sounds like a big whisper.
Another factor that justifies the survival of the single screens is the fact that India is a country of the masses rather than the classes. The majority of the country’s cinema going population belongs to the middle class or the upper middle class. The pricing of tickets and other facilities in single screens turn out to be reasonable for the socio-economic segments that constitute the mass of the cinemagoers.
It’s extra money, stupid!
On the other hand, if a common middle class family– comprising a man, his wife and two kids– thinks of venturing out into a multiplex on a Saturday evening, the idea doesn’t seem too pleasing, if you count the costs!
The average ticket cost at a multiplex is Rs 180. So the guy dishes out Rs 720 in the very beginning to get in. The kids won’t be happy if you save on some popcorn and coke. So add another Rs 200. After walking out of the auditorium, the wife surely doesn’t feel like spending the rest of the evening in the kitchen. So, they go out to a restaurant or perhaps even the fancy food court in the same mall! By the time the family reaches home, the man realizes that his wallet weighs a lot lesser than it did before they headed out from home, and is not too happy about it!
Even the single screen cinema halls in the tier 2 and 3 cities and towns in the country have taken a U-turn for good and are getting a good number of footfalls with the advent of digital cinema coming into play! With the installation of machines from companies like UFO moviez and Real image, cinema halls in the very interiors of the country are now able to screen the latest movie, creating the buzz on the day of its worldwide release which wasn’t possible earlier due to a limited number of prints that would be allotted to every territory.
On a concluding note, the road for the single screens has definitely not hit a dead end! The multiplexes have an audience of their own as much as the single screens have theirs. The key to survival for both, the single screens and multiplexes, is constant reinvention, without which the interest of the audience will be lost. The co-existence of the two is definitely what the future holds in store, and the massive releases and box office collections of movies that we see in today’s times wouldn’t be possible without the presence of single screens and the multiplexes, both of which are as important as the other!
The multiplexes provide a one-window access to multiple forms of entertainment, but the experience for ushers of single screen cinema halls is also unmatchable! Single Screen Theatres in India will never die.