What exactly is happening in the exhibition trade, especially to multiplex properties? Even before Covid-19 struck, many small chain operators wanted to get out of the business and were in the process of negotiating with bigger chains to be taken over. The negotiations, however, fell through when lockdown was announced.
Now the same smaller chain operator has not only decided to continue in the business but has recently inaugurated a new multiplex just a few days ago!
Then there is another chain, a major one. Even as its promoters are diluting their stakes, it has gone ahead and acquired a six-screen, 790-seat capacity property as well as another one with four screens to manage.
The first instance is of the Miraj group, which not long ago was planning to go with PVR, but the deal did not materialise. It has now launched a new four-screen property in Alwar!
PVR, on its part, has acquired two properties, adding 10 more screens to its count. The six-screen Jio World Centre at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), Mumbai, has been named Maison INOX. It has 790 seats between its six screens and these include one IMAX.
The thing with BKC is that it is a purely commercial area with few residential buildings and wears a totally deserted look post sunset.
The other four-screen aquisition by PVR is in Bhubaneshwar at Utkal Kanika Galleria Mall with 682 seats to offer.
In Gujarat, two properties have become operational. The Rajhans chain has added a four-screen multiplex at Vapi with a total capacity of 806 seats. The other property to have sprung up is located at Bapu Nagar in Ahmedabad from the Apple chain.
Ahmedabad also got a new five-screen multiplex on November 17. Promoted by Cinepolis, it is located at the Kankubag Mall in Vastral and has seating for 1,298 moviegoers.
Besides all these, Gurugam has a new property, from Moviemax at Ansal Plaza. A four-screen multiplex, it seats 802 people.
That is not all. Between Dussehra and Diwali this year, as many as eight new multiplexes have been inaugurated. Their promoters probably hoped for an auspicious launch not only because of Dussehra and Diwali, but also because of the promise of a lucrative start with ‘Tiger 3’. Also, a viewer does not really bother about the admission rates for a Salman Khan film (a successful franchise at that) during the festive season.
The South has not given in to the multiplex trend like the West and the North. That is one of the reasons why the production industry is doing so well in the South. The admission rates are still affordable for the masses.
Allu Arjun, a Telugu cinema super star in his own right, has invested in a multiplex at Ameerpet, Hyderabad. The most sensible thing about his venture is that it is a two-screen property and not a white elephant with five to 10 screens, which are hard to feed, the supply of films being so limited.
Reportedly, Allu Arjun’s AAA Cinemas is slated to also invest in another property at Kokapet in Hyderabad.
The spread of multiplexes is not going to stop with Hyderabad.
Subhash Ghai’s Mukta Arts Limited through its Bahrain subsidiary Mukta A2 Multiplex W.L.L. has decided to explore the exhibition business in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mukta A2 has joined hands with Al-Othaim Investment Company, a real estate venture. Also planning to enter the Saudi Arabia film exhibition sphere is the Miraj Group, which is already negotiating with the authorities there.
Saudi Arabia is not known to be a very film industry friendly country and following a wave of religious activism, the country had no cinema business for 35 long years.
The ban on cinemas was lifted in 2018 and building of cinemas has picked up since then. Though Hindi films were screened before the ban along with Turkish and Egyptian content, the flow has been slow since the lifting of the ban.
Indian filmmakers need not expect too much because the market is small yet and censorship is severe.
The multiplex business has not proven to be very productive, so it is surprising that new properties are springing up at different locations. Especially when you consider the flow of films in the days ahead. The coming year, 2024, has no films of the top stars in the listings so far.
Possibly, those venturing into the exhibition trade are convinced that this is the present as well as future of the trade.