EXCLUSIVE| 1800 PVR INOX cinemas now offer tickets at just ₹ 220, food at ₹ 99: MD Ajay Bijli

| Updated: 05 January, 2024 6:36 pm IST

NEW DELHI: During an exclusive interview with The New Indian‘s Executive Editor Rohan Dua, PVR INOX Managing Director Ajay Bijli, dwelled on his strategy to solidify his customer base by bringing in people from across different demography. He elaborates on his business tactic to give people from different strata of society a chance to have a good cinematic experience.

Here are the few excerpts from the interview:

Rohan Dua: How do you look back at your businesses, such as opening up the country’s first-ever laser XD Imax? The possibility of bringing the facility like an analogue 70 mm Imax film projector to India. I must ask you how do you come up with the arithmetic of 10,000 rupees tickets? Isn’t that a bit too prohibitive, considering that there is an onslaught by Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sonyliv?

Ajay Bijli: I think there are two different mediums of delivery. OTT platforms, during the Covid period, definitely the decibel level and their importance and significance became very, very high because cinemas were shut for 18 to 24 months.

So people were consumed over there. But if you look at a normalized situation, TV shows primarily are what gets consumed on OTT and movies, unless it is commissioned like Archie’s got commissioned by Netflix. Typically, a movie’s journey is a theatrical run for eight weeks, and then it comes to the OTT platform. So first of all, it’s not an either-or situation. You go to a cinema to watch a movie first, you see it over there, and then it comes to the OTT platform.

The consumers in India have such a major FOMO. If they know Dunki is good, if they know 12th fail is good, they’re not going to wait for eight weeks for it to come on the OTT platform. So they will come out. That’s one answer somewhere to the question that you asked.

The other is how do I have a ₹1,500 ticket or a ₹10,000 outing. That’s because, for me, the market is very disparate. There is a market, and by the way, only 12 or 13 per cent of our cinemas are luxury and premium. 85% of my cinemas are still, if you look at our last results, the average ticket price was ₹260.

If I remove the ₹1,500 ticket, the average will even come down to maybe ₹220. So I am very cognizant of the fact that to get 200 million people, I have to make my price point very accessible and affordable. At the same time, the positioning of the company will always be aspirational.

I want to make an aspirational product. So Rs 1500 and Rs10,000 outing is addressing that consumer who has got a home theater as big as this in his house, who is used to luxury, who is used to getting pampered. So, the consumer also wants to get out of his house.

But there is another customer who is very, very value-conscious, and we’ve also got a Rs 99 offer from FNB. We’ve also got a passport. I’ve also got ticket prices ₹150. So, the positioning of the 1700- 1800 screens that we have got is for the accessible and aspirational customer at ₹150 also, and another aspirational customer who is not that price sensitive, but he is more service, and experience sensitive.

So otherwise, you cannot have a pan-India presence and you cannot say I am going to get all the consumers out. So that’s how I address it. I look at the needs of a certain demographic and give them this.

I look at the need of another consumer who wants to have a good time, good sound, a good projection system, and good seating, but doesn’t want to pay more than 200 bucks. So that’s how you try to get everybody.

Rohan: The recent Netflix example which you gave of the Archies is a worrying concern for me. When the nepo kids like Suhana, Agastya or Khushi, they prefer to make their debut on OTT and not come on the big 70 mm screen like their fathers or their mothers. Why would they choose Netflix?

Ajay: I am not worried about that. I think OTT platforms also provide a great opportunity for actors to show their talent in TV shows or movies, which are commissioned and also come on the big screen. So I am, as you said, I have one leg of my business in the film fraternity. They want to do both. So Zoya has got a tiger baby with which she can make ‘Archies’. She’s also got Excel for which she can make a big movie like ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, ‘Gully Boy’, or what she feels like.

So I think what is happening to the film fraternity is they are making the most of the platforms that are available to them.

The economic rationale of coming on the big screen is not lost on anybody, because a movie like Kantara, which is made for 20 crores, did 300 crores. A movie like Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s ‘12th fail’ which is made on a budget of 5 to 10 crores ends up doing 85 crores. They cannot get that on OTT because of the cost plus. So I think people are free birds. They are creative butterflies.

Rohan: To give a counterpoint to this. The fact is that most of the directors or the filmmakers that you are naming today, have come to a position only because of the phenomenal success that they saw because of ‘Pathaan’, ‘KGF’, or ‘Jawan’. That was all in the theatres. If that had not happened, they would not have decided to venture into OTT either. So, it’s both ways as well, right?

Ajay: I think luckily India is a very volume-based country. So, there are so many people out there making movies that if one or two decide to make for a small screen, it’s okay because there are so many others available to replace them. So if one or two, you know, kids of these actors go there, I’m 100 per cent sure they will come on the big screen because Suhana and Shahrukh are making a movie, a superhero film that he just read somewhere that is also going to come on the big screen. So I think people are allowed to make their own choices. They are allowed to sort of creatively do what they feel like, and it doesn’t worry me at all.

Rohan: We see Imax, 4D, Playhouse Gold Lux drive and Director’s cut, all your luxury cinema houses, coming into 2024, when there is going to be a huge rush for Lok Sabha elections and people are going to relax for the next 3 or 4 months. Do you personally believe there is going to be a price cut? Do you feel that given that your price is already low?

Ajay: As I said, my price is already Rs 260. And we’ve got so many offers with our passport. From Monday to Thursday for Rs 799, you can watch ten movies now. I think another one is coming out. I think we will not outprice ourselves is the future of this country as well.

Rohan: Which was the last movie that you saw in your cinema house- Pathaan, Jawan, Dunki or any other movie?

Ajay: I saw last night in this cinema, where we are sitting, ’12th fail’.

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