Managing director of PVR INOX speaks about ticket prices and watching movies on the big screen
Multiplex chain PVR INOX recently launched its 20th IMAX Screen at Priya Cinema in south Delhi. It’s the only standalone IMAX theatre in India and will help expand the movie-viewing market, according to the company. Ajay Bijli, managing director of PVR INOX, and Aamer Bijli, his son and lead specialist-international film marketing at PVR INOX, spoke to Namrata Kohli about movies and ticket prices.
Edited excerpts from an interview in Delhi.
What is IMAX screen technology?
Ajay Bijli: We are extremely pleased to upgrade our first and most iconic cinema, PVR Priya (in south Delhi), into a modern-day representation of a truly immersive cinematic experience like IMAX. Non-Hindi Indian and Hollywood movies have indeed broken the thresholds of geographical and language barriers being dubbed in multiple languages aided by their larger-than-life appeal and immersive formats such as IMAX have helped in expanding the movie-viewing market. We are certain that PVR IMAX at Priya would be the most sought after out-of-home entertainment destination for movie lovers.
IMAX with laser is set apart by its 4K laser projection system featuring a new optical engine and a suite of proprietary IMAX technology that delivers crystal clear images, increased resolution, deeper contrast as well as the most distinct, exotic colours ever available on-screen. The new experience also features next-generation IMAX precision sound, delivering greater dynamic range and precision for the ultimate in audio immersion.
You started the Priya Cineplex in the 1990s and then pioneered the concept of multiplexes in 1997. How has customer expectation changed since then?
Ajay Bijli: India is a market which I have really enjoyed for cinemas. I think I have never ventured out and the only other market we have is Sri Lanka. The reason why I always love this market is because it is a quantitative market. You have 1,800 films going through the system and 1.4 billion tickets that get sold. Currently we have some 1,708 screens, 335 properties and we are growing by 200 screens per year. Over the years one thing that has always remained consistent is a relentless determination and commitment of the film fraternity to keep on making movies which connect with the consumers and on the other side the consumer’s insatiable appetite to go out and entertain themselves no matter what is happening at home. This thing has remained consistent in the last 30 years. Nothing has changed. All we have to do is keep pushing the envelope whether it’s the filmmakers, or what we have to as exhibitors. I must say that the film industry is tackling taboo subjects so well and full credit goes to them for their courage and gumption to come up with such incredible scripts.
What are some of the recent innovations you have brought in the world of watching cinema?
Ajay Bijli: At DLF Promenade, we have ICE technology which is all about additional LED panels flanking either side of the auditorium to give the viewer a far wider field of vision. ICE technology is to vision what Dolby Atmos is to hearing. Those additional panels don’t really display the actual movie though. Instead, these are meant to give the illusion of a wider screen with colours and shapes from the movie. Then there are others of course such as Dolby, Christie, Barco. We even have seats with massagers and we do everything to create an enhanced cinematic experience. But whatever technology we bring and whatever we do may be incomplete if the content is not good. At the end of the day, we rely on good content and have a symbiotic relationship with content creators.
You have brought in a luxury experience but the ticket prices have gone through the roof.
Ajay Bijli: In India, there is a customer for Rs 100 as well as for Rs 1,500 and we have horses for courses and we cover them all. For every segment in the market, we try to provide an enhanced movie watching experience. There is a home theatre audience, which is price insensitive, and there are complete movie buffs who will only watch a particular movie only on an IMAX screen and nowhere else. They will wait for it to display on IMAX, and then we also have a price-conscious customer. Price is a function of the experience we provide. I don’t want to say that price will continue to be what it is, but all I can say is trying to find the best experience within the ticket pricing that we can offer – and we do offer dynamic-range pricing.
What kind of international content is being brought in at the theatres?
Aamer Bijli: PVR combined entity is bringing now all kinds of content such as Hollywood content, Bollywood content, regional content especially alternative content in areas around the world. Bollywood has had its own journey but there has always been a latent demand for foreign language and vernacular also. With the massive success of RRR, KG 2, Vikram, the south (India) has always been very big for us. PVR pictures, which is our sister company, is also hell-bent on driving the other content into India and that includes Korean film and even Japanese content.
The pandemic has changed a lot of things such as allowing people to explore content on OTT, and expand their horizon, their views on what they are comfortable listening to or watching and now we are running on riding that wave to make sure we can provide that level of entertainment.