As multiplexes wait government’s nod to re-open, leading player PVR Cinemas is gearing up with an enhanced set of hygiene and protocols. The company expects nearly 70 per cent of the tickets to be bought online when it opens for bookings and believes there is a strong content line-up available for screening, even as some movies have opted for the direct-to-digital release route
The new movie-going experience in the pandemic will include contactless QR-code based paperless tickets, extended intermissions (to avoid crowding), no frisking at the entry, staggered seating, social distancing marked queuing, digital food ordering, foot-operated sanitiser dispensers and minimal human contact. The multiplex staff will undergo health screening and will wear PPE gear, masks and shields and only 50 per cent of restroom facilities will be operated.
Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas said, “ The Multiplex Association of India is in conversation with the government to allow cinemas to re-open. Once we get the nod from MHA and the state governments, we hope to have all our cinemas open within 4-6 weeks.” The industry is hoping to get the official approval to open in the unlock 3.0 phase starting August.
PVR has also tied up with RB’s Dettol for sanitisation products and implement enhanced cleaning and sanitisation standards. Dutta said stringent sanitisation protocols will be followed which includes ULV sanitisation with anti-microbial surface coating done through electrostatic machines, frequent deep cleaning and disinfection regime. “ Lot of focus will be put on food safety, even the popcorn will come with a lid. We will also follow protocols for UV-based sterilisation of cutlery, crockery and food packaging,”he added.
“We are investing about ₹6 crore for the new hygiene protocols across our properties. But we believe the cost or capex attached with the new sanitisation protocols will be balanced out by the slightly lower operational costs. We have done away with some hospitality functions and will not use food trays, pillows and blankets,” Dutta said. He added that the strategy will be to focus on showcasing of maximum content across screens to meet the pent-up demand. “With consumers increasingly turning to online channel. We expect online ticket bookings contribution to go up to about 70 per cent from the current 54 per cent,” he said.
Asked about expectations of consumer footfalls once cinemas open up, Dutta said, “We expect slowly and steadily consumers will gain confidence to come back to the cinemas. For instance-Malls witnessed a huge jump in footfalls between the first and second week. We could look at lowering our prices, do more marketing, tweak content strategy and we expect things to stabilise once the big films start releasing.”
Despite some movies premièring on OTT platforms, the multiplex industry believes there is a decent content slate available with both small and big-budget flicks across Bollywood and Hollywood such as Sooryavanshi, 83 and Coolie No 1. In the initial days, PVR Cinemas will also look at re-running a selection of movies including Oscar-winning movies.
Replying to a query on re-working on lease agreements, Dutta said, “Developers are keenly awaiting re-opening of cinemas at their malls. Till the time cinemas won’t open, their footfalls will remain under stress. We are having extremely fair conversations with our partners on our agreements.”