EXC – ‘RRR’, ‘Pushpaa’ Got Us Back; 18-Month Closure Can’t Stop Cinema: INOX CEO

| Updated: 02 June, 2022 5:16 pm IST

BENGALURU: Is the box office back to pre-pandemic levels? Have the cinematic choices of people changed? Why is the INOX on the expansion spree when the obituaries of the exhibition sector are being written? What are the challenges exhibitors and owners of cinema halls are facing in India?

In an exclusive interview with The New Indian, the CEO of the INOX chain of multiplexes – Alok Tandon – comes clean on a gamut of subjects. Here are the edited excerpts:

Q: The cinema halls across India are now again operating at full strength with the government allowing 100% occupancy in most of the states. But is the box-office business back to the pre-pandemic levels?

A: The numbers are telling us that people are back in the cinema halls. I would say the Indian film industry has really been revived. The last month of the previous financial year – March 2022 – was terrific for us and the momentum has sustained in April and May as well.

The films such as ‘RRR’, ‘Pushpaa’, ‘The Kashmir Files’, ‘KGF Chapter 2’, ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’, ‘Bheemla Nayak’ and now ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ have set the cash registers ringing. So, people are back to the cinema halls and we are clocking up pre-COVID numbers.

Q: A section of the media wrote obituaries of the exhibition sector during the pandemic saying people have now gotten used to watching films on the OTT and streaming platforms…

A: Watching movies in cinema halls is in the DNA of every Indian and you can’t take it away. Cinema halls remaining close for 18 months due to the pandemic cannot change that. For us Indians, watching movies is the best entertainment. That will always continue.

Q: Have the expectations and cinematic preferences of viewers changed after the pandemic? We have seen mostly big-scale, mainstream and extravagant movies scoring at the turnstiles, while medium-budget or content-driven films fail to even take decent initials.

A: I can’t put movies in buckets based on their budgets. I am saying the quality of content has to be great. The stories have to be absorbing and only then people will come in. If the story won’t resonate with the patrons, the film will never work. The people should feel that the movie is worth their time and money which they’re spending in the cinema hall. So, it’s the story, not the budget, which determines the box-office success or failure of the movie.

Q: Amid the uncertainty, how did the INOX think of going on the expansion spree?

A: As a brand, we are always hungry for growth and expansion even when the tide is against us. We have always been optimistic about the future of the exhibition sector because the Indian film industry is here to stay forever. We have added 17 screens so far in this financial year and will open 60 more screens. Our target is to add 77 screens in this financial year.

Apart from expansion, we are also focusing on the consumer front. We have engineered our menu and added more cuisines to serve our visitors. The Indian consumer has become very discerning and aspirational. That’s why we have launched a brand ‘Megaplex’ where we have 10 screens and every format in which a customer can view a movie.

Q: The exhibition sector generates a lot of revenue for the government and also provides employment to many people. What kind of help do you expect from the government?

A: The Indian film industry is as big as it can be. We sell the maximum number of tickets in the world. The revenues will only grow with time. For the entire sector to grow, we want the government to provide us with single-window clearances for all licences which are required to open a cinema hall. That will be of great help.

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