Sunny Deol’s movie 'Gadar 2' is a hit that has brought audiences to theatres. (File photo)

Luxury viewing: How multiplexes are getting movie fans to theatres

Ticket prices are worth for the technology, leather seats and gourmet food at theatres, say companies

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

When actor Sunny Deol’s movie Gadar 2 was released on August 11, Shubhi Singhal watched it in a luxury theatre near her home in southwest Delhi’s Dwarka.
“No doubt the ticket was for Rs 1,300 per head for PVR Luxe Prime but this was an investment on a bespoke experience. The staff does everything to make you comfortable like if you want ice cold water, or a blanket you can get it on demand. You are not frisked and no one checks your purse. The seating is luxurious leather sofas and there is so much space between the seats,” says Singhal, 33, a homemaker.

The movie watching phenomenon has radically transformed over the years. If you trace the history, earlier you had movies with no sound… then came mono sound, stereo, surround sound, IMAX and now next generation IMAX. There was celluloid, then analogue, xenon, laser. The cineplex is where it all started from and finally now you have a multiplex which is a movie theater complex with multiple screens within a single complex, with anything from five to seven to even fourteen screens at some places.

The recent trends show how people have been flocking to the movie theatres and how the lure of the big screen still holds sway on the audience. Gadar 2 has crossed 400 Crore all India net collection and Oh My God 2 120.62 crores, Jailer 292.03 crores, Rocky aur Rani 146.47 crores. For Hollywood films like Oppenheimer, the numbers are impressive at 129.75 crores.

According to producer and filmmaker Dr. Madhu Chopra, founder Purple Pebble Pictures, a film production company, “I believe that in the phase of OTT platforms also, multiplexes are here to stay. The experience you get by watching a film at the multiplex is something everybody wants to enjoy. Not everyone has a home theatre at their places to enjoy OTT. While watching films on a mobile you don’t appreciate the production value, the grandeur, the sound of the music, or the dialogues. I think movie theatres are here to stay, and there will be more films coming to the theatres.”

Viewers watching movies in luxury theatres seek indulgence and multiplex theatres are pampering them. “Amenities, plush leather seating, special couple sofa seats, array of menus to choose from, on call concierge service, parking assistance, ambience and projection as well as sound technology are some of the key features that differentiate CX (customer experience) today,” says Chandrashekar Mantha, partner, media & entertainment sector leader, Deloitte India. “The nature of the viewing experience has also taken a quantum leap with formats like drive in, roof top theatres, beach side or in bar viewing and amphitheaters.”

PVR INOX, the multiplex theatre chain, recently launched a standalone IMAX Screen theatre in Priya Cinema, the company’s property in south Delhi’s Vasant Vihar. “We are extremely pleased to upgrade our first and most iconic cinema, PVR Priya, into a modern-day representation of a truly immersive cinematic experience like IMAX,” says Ajay Bijli, managing director, PVR INOX. “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.”

“I really wonder why people say that movie-going has become a very expensive affair. I feel it is not; it (watching movies) will depend on what kind of a format you are going for – if you are going for an IMAX or a screen which only has recliners or whether it’s just a normal regular screen. The pricing will vary,” says Satwik Lele, chief operating officer of Mukta A2 Cinemas, which has 31 properties with 59 screens in India, who feels movie tickets should not be considered expensive because theatres offer a range.

“The experience (of watching movies) you get stepping out of your home is going to be unparalleled. At home, one is watching the movie on a small screen, and you have a particular sound system, which is not up to that quality. Our strategy to lure the customer is just to stick to the basics- we ensure we have the best sound system, the best projection, the best services to impart to our guests and F&B,” he says.

Premium movie theatres get better occupancy, ticket price notwithstanding. “The average ticket prices across premium categories can vary between 2x to over 10x from the base ticket pricing tier. Gross box office collections in 2023 (YTD) has been at over Rs 6,200 crore contributed by 119 movies. We see a healthy uptick in the movie-going trend and may continue to be so with some marquee releases yet to come,” says Deloitte’s Mantha.

How To Choose Your Kind of Movie and Hall

Start with selecting your kind of movie. Due to the sheer number of choices available in the entertainment industry today, it can be quite difficult to pick one movie to watch. But know which genre excites you the most– nail down whether it’s action or adventure, comedy or drama, fantasy or horror, musicals or mystery, romance or science fiction or thriller. Amit Sharma, who is 27 and works in Bengaluru as an information technology professional, says the movies he watches in luxury theatres must be of his taste. “Not every movie is worth the time and money spent on watching it on the big screen. I only opt for my kind of movies for multiplexes and take into consideration factors like which actor is starring in the film. Even scriptwriters matter. I always read about movie plots and reviews in advance.”

After choosing the film, you must figure out your budget. While the average mainstream ticket price is Rs 250, for an enhanced movie viewing experience there are formats such as Insignia for Rs 1,100-1,200 per person or Director’s Cut from Rs 900- 2,000, Imax for Rs 600, Screen X and N4DX for Rs 400-500 and for kids there is Playhouse and Kiddles for Rs 350.

Choose the kind of theatre or auditorium suited to your hall you want to see the movie in. Take the case of INOX’s Insignia theatre that comes equipped with luxurious interiors, touch-screen operated recliners, laser projection technology, Dolby Atmos sound, and Volfoni Systems 3D13. PVR Director’s Cut is again a luxury chain of theatres of PVR that offers top-class hospitality services along with entertainment. Even for the children, there are special premium kid cinemas such as Playhouse and Kiddles replete with has colours on the seat, additional toys, candy bar, slides etc.

According to spokesperson at PVR INOX Limited, “First of all its important to understand why there is a premium on ticket price- whether it’s a technology driven premium format or an experiential driven premium format like Insignia or Director’s Cut where there is a lot of investment going into the kind of seat, the upholstery, the carpet, the wall. Then there are premium tech formats such as nx4d which is American technology and has its own patented effect and cinematic and atmospheric effects. For instance, if it’s a war scene there will be smoke coming out of sidewalls. And if it’s a dating scene there will be the smell of coffee coming from the seat handles.”

Then comes choosing your kind of seat. Some seats are obviously not ideal—like seats in the very front row or at the edges of the auditorium—but when it comes to all that room in the middle, picking the perfect place to sit may feel like guesswork. You shouldn’t select your movie theatre seat at random. To see as much of the action as possible, sit in a chair that lines you up with the centre of the screen. Moviegoers in this spot will also enjoy better sound quality: Theatres with surround sound blast audio from speakers around the room, creating a harmony that strikes a perfect balance in the middle of the theatre.

Choose your meal discreetly. Multiplex owners say that they have moved way beyond popcorns and colas, not only in metros but even in tier 2 markets. They have introduced everything from turmeric latte to salads, and green tea. Pick a seat in a theatre that lines you up with the centre of the screen and pick a snack from the wide menu that theatres now offer: pizzas, sushi and biryani. Even the humble popcorn costs between Rs 390 and Rs 550 at multiplexes. Says Chirag Gupta, Founder at 4700BC, “Popcorns is a very cinema snack. Over the years, the profit margins coming from popcorn have increased and so also consumption.” He adds that if you see the Indian market, there are limited entertainment options – one is a dining option and second is a movie option. There aren’t still enough bowling alleys or theme parks and hence these are the only options. Butter popcorn is our evergreen product – it is like what salted chips are. And then next comes caramel popcorns and chocolate and cheese are also finding favour. India is a taste first country and then a health first we as a brand are aligned on innovation and taste and health comes third.”

Food and beverage menu is relatively elaborate in luxury theatre and the menus are curated by celebrity chefs. Says an industry insider- “We have the regular confection counters of nachos, popcorns, cola and café counters with waffles, coffee and have even introduced a buffet sometime back. The people are trained from a hospitality perspective on how to serve food and since the lighting is dark, what should be the best way to serve – how much the server has to bend down so that he is not blocking the view – these are the details we are getting into now. We even take care of details like the colour of crockery.”

Finally, for you as a consumer what is more important – content or packaging. The Indian movie goer is willing to pay a premium for a differentiated experience, to stand out of the crowd, and want to create the best memories with family and friends. For example, to watch Oppenheimer, movie buffs waited for the Imax format because that kind of cinema viewing is apt for an Imax experience with audio video finesse. Says Mukta A2 Cinema’s Satwik Lele,
“It’s always content over packaging. At the end of the day, you are going to watch a movie, to get entertained, to connect with that film and to get a larger-than-life experience- everything else around it is secondary. If you are not liking the product which is the movie no matter what support services I provide will not matter – I may have a brilliantly made lobby, an excellent screen with an Imax projector but if you don’t like the movie your experience will be negative overall.”

At the end of the day, Indian consumers want good content and good films. If the content is good, they may be willing to pay for premium experiences.

Movie ticket prices at various PVR theatres

Type of auditorium Price range (in Rs)
Director’s Cut 900-2,000
Insignia 1,100-1,200
Imax 600
Screen x and n4dx 400-500
Kiddles and Playhouse 350
Regular ticket price 250

Source: PVR

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