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Will 2021 be the year of cinema entertainment?

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As the theatres reopened in Oct 2019, multiplexes soon recalibrated their approach to woo customers, but not with much success

Like every other business, multiplexes too had a tough time dealing with the challenges posed by Covid-19. The difference, however, is that its impact was more severe in their case and seemingly here to stay, unless addressed with innovation. Though hopes are pinned on 2021, it will take a few months to see how it will shape the multiplex industry.

After a seven-month-long closure, the central government finally allowed multiplexes to reopen in October 2020 within the framework of a set of standard operating procedures (SOPs). Multiplexes soon recalibrated their approach to woo customers. From the run of old films, because availability of fresh content is still a big challenge for them, to hosting  film festivals and offering incentives, they had a plan in place to woo customers, but not with much success.

For multiplex players, 2021 has begun with the right buzz around Covid-19 vaccine. They are still treading this phase with cautious optimism and taking active steps to cut spending across all non-essential expenditures in order to meet the added operating costs due to Covid SOPs.

“We are calling it the year of cinema entertainment. There will be heavy flow of top quality content across genres and languages with some amazing storytelling concepts. 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. We are looking forward to movies like Master and KGF Chapter 2, 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.”

Savita Raj Hiremath, who has produced popular movies like Jhund, Khosla Ka Ghosla among others, says that theatres are very keen to get back into action in 2021.

In her view, it requires big popular films with innovative promotions to bring back the audiences, and marketing will play a big role alongside some efforts by government on taxes to lift the multiplex players out of their current state.

“The distributors, theatre owners and producers have to sit across to rework dynamics to make producers comfortable to bet on big films by committing some numbers. Producers alone are hesitating to take all risk on recoveries. Currently, big films are big risks too. The reason producers are looking at OTT as an option is because OTT is making the producers’ investment safer. So I suppose the structure needs to be reworked ASAP & theatre owners have to understand the importance of content at this hour as the experience of film watching has to have a new cumulative meaning for the audience,” she shares

Recently, West Bengal allowed the cinema halls in the state to increase the seating capacity from existing 50 per cent to 100 per cent with adherence to Covid safety protocols, just days after the Tamil Nadu government repealed a similar order following Centre’s objection. This move has brought some hope for the multiplex industry.

Rahul Puri, MD, Mukta A2 Cinemas, says that cinemas have started picking up and people are back enjoying the big screen experience.

“We all know that good content is what will make all the difference.  But for a few more months, the marketing strategy will be mainly focused on the safety and awareness aspects to encourage and assure people that their favourite movie destination is as safe as going to a mall or eating at a restaurant.  We will mainly rely on digital marketing, guest reviews and offers specially curated to promote footfall and food and beverage sales,” Puri elaborates.

There is no doubt that 2021 will continue to see a heightened focus on safety and hygiene and multiplexes will step up the gas on Innovation revolving around the giant screen, like private screenings, alternate content screening, unique brand collaborations, introduction of new F&B concepts etc.

According to film trade expert Atul Mohan, multiplexes will have to be nimble footed to tide over the challenges posed by Covid-19. “Most importantly, multiplexes will have to rethink ticket prices and ensure that it is exciting enough for customers to switch from OTT subscription to a theatre experience.”

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