This issue of TW has two sets of page numbers - International pages TW-1 to TW-52 for TW, and India pages TM-1 to TM-38 for TM. TM is inserted between pages TW-42 and TW-43 of TW.
Reflections of Recession
INDIAPLEXING City of Joy Gets a Double
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E
New Horizons of Indian Cinema TECHNOLOGY
India’s Oldest Running Cinema
Elgin Talkies – Breathing Nostalgia
MMindscape TM EDITORIAL
TIME FOR ALTERNATIVES Cinemas world over had long been suffering from lack of quality content that could keep their cash registers ringing regularly. India’s case had been no better- which was why there was a high degree of skepticism when a concept like digital cinema came like an alternative (if not like the only way) for cinemas to hold on to their trade during the slack seasons, apart from elevating the cinematic experience.
offices, cinemas are ought to look for alternatives. And, in times of market crisis matching the movie crisis – like the current one where even the most potential blockbuster moviemakers become wary – cinemas need to chart alternative paths, to remain in business- let alone filling coffers, particularly in the wake of threats like IPL frenzy.
Shorn of good movies, and faced against the onslaught of televised soccer and cricket matches for long, cinemas have already began harping upon tie-ups with broadcasters for ‘feed’ing their box offices with some big-screen matches.
Thanks to technology- it helps not only to discover alternative means of business, but also translate threats into opportunities. India appears to be game for it. Go for the alternative play!
It is in times of saturation or crisis that alternatives come to play. My view is that it was case one for the inventors and propagators of digital cinema in the West while it is case two for India. In a country where world’s highest number of movies are produced but hardly a minuscule of that fills the box
Theatre Magic April-June
Bhavanashi Ramakrishna Editor, Theatre Magic
It’s Producers to Strike Now
Row Over ShowBiz Taking New High The dispute between movie makers and cinema exhibitors appears to be taking new highs as, this time, movie producers plan to go on indefinite strike starting April 3, as they could not resolve their differences with multiplex owners over revenue sharing. The latest tiff cropped up following the refusal of multiplex operators to the producers’ terms of 50:50 equality in revenue sharing for every movie to distributor. “We realised that we are talking to a wall and to the people who were insensitive to our demands,” filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt was quoted as saying. “Multiplexes have adopted the policy of tossing a coin, and that is not done.” The row between multiplex operators and producers had been going on for quite sometime now- from the days of Dhoom-2, released by Yashraj Films. On at least three occasions, the cinema operators took to agitation protesting against what they called unduly demanding attitude of the producers. There have been more than half-a-dozen instances of blockbuster movies getting blocked before they opened up at the box office, due to which both the parties have suffered. However, this is the first time that top producers of the film industry like Yash Chopra, UTV and Indian films came together and said that there will be no bullying tactics of multiplexes against them from April 3 until and unless they agree on equal revenue sharing. At present, the deal between producers and multiplex owners varies according to the status of the movie and the stars acting in it. If an actor like Shah Rukh Khan’s movie is released, then the multiplex will budge for their revenue sharing with producers. But if a lesser known
actor’s movie is being released, the multiplex operators will dictate terms. According to the producers, multiplex owners have formed a cartel and till now have been armtwisting the moviemaking community individually. It was high time they put an end to it, and they no longer would take it. “In UK and UAE, the distributors and multiplex owners have a 50:50 ratio of revenue sharing,” eminent producer Ramesh Sippy, was quoted as saying. “In USA and Canada, 60 percent of the first week’s collections goes to the distributor and 40 percent goes to the multiplex owners. Unfortunately, this trend is not followed in India and they dictate terms to us.” According to the industry view, multiplex owners earn as much as 25 percent of revenue from their food and beverage section, roughly 15 per cent from parking spaces, and about 8-10 per cent from commercials played in cinemas. These are outside any agreement with the producer-distributor combine, and go the cinema’s coffers. Interestingly, this has been one of the grouses in a section of producers that cinema operators are on the higher side of the revenue, out of a movie. On a latest estimate, there are approximately 250 multiplexes in India, with an aggregate screen count of about 900, and over 2.50 lakh seats. The multiplex collections are very critical to the production industry today, since they account for as much as 75 per cent to total box office collections in the country- owing to their higher admission price. Probably, a reason why multiplex operators play the game very strongly and aggressively!
Exhibitors Come Together to Say
‘Link Performance to Revenue Sharing’ The exhibition community, on the other hand, has come up strong refuting the producer-distributor commune’s demand as irrational and illogical. Following the movie industry’s ultimatum, five major, Mumbai-based multiplex chains have come together (to the media) to present what they called ‘the other side of the story.’ The representatives included Tushar Dhingra, COO of Big Cinemas, Shravan Shroff, MD of Fame Cinemas, Alok Tandon, COO of Inox Leisure, Devang Sampat, Sr VP of Cinemax, and Hamid Shaikh of Movietime. Through a meticulously detailed figures and facts, the multiplex majors sought to explain how multiplexes had been contributing to higher revenues for the moviemaking industry. TM-6
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According to them, it was due to, and after the emergence of multiplexes that the production community began to reap higher revenues, and those revenues that were going missing due to unorganised box office collection set-up. The box office revenues – which were around 45 per cent to 50 per cent during 2005-06 – increased to 65 per cent to 70 per cent during 2007-08, due to higher collections and better accounting methods of multiplexes. When considered in pure monitory terms, this translates into Rs. 77 crore in 2005-06 to Rs. 240 crore in 2007-08- more than three-fold rise. It was because of the multiplexes’ ability to penetrate to tier-II and III cities, and attract the wider attendances that
movie industry got the otherwise lost patrons, and make more money. More, multiplex industry has also created scope for making ‘niche’ movies which otherwise was not possible. Movies like Maqbool, Iqbaal, Bheja Fry, Aamir, A Wednesday, Page-3, Dev D, Khosla Ka Multiplexers’ box office contribution to movie industry for the last four years Ghosla etc. – which were very unlikely to be producer- which is a median. If the movie performed well, commercial hits – returned with as much as 85 per cent to the operator would share the extra collections, and if the 90 per cent collection due to the multiplexes’ ability to movie did not perform, there would not be any sharing. screen them. Taking a dig at the producers’ comparison of sharing ratios Against this, there are vagaries like the unpredictability of of Indian cinema with those in advanced markets, Vishal movies being hit or flop, and coercing the exhibitors into Kapur of Fun Cinemas says “the conditions under which flat rate ratio was irrational, emphasise the multiplex reps. we operate are entirely different from those of advanced The main bone of contention between the exhibitors and markets. It is unfair to draw a parallel.” According to him, the producers is the rate of rental. While the exhibitors there are differences like tax rates, admission rates, and say the rental has to be case-to-case or performancemarketing spends between exhibitors and producers. based, the producers insist on fixed, flat rate of 50:50 “Actually, it was this flat-rate ratio that had killed the old revenue sharing. good-running single screens,” says Vishal. “Theatres with Says Shravan Shroff: “Chandni Chowk to China came with huge capacity, could not fill out their auditoria with huge expectations but bombed at the box office, while mediocre movies, but had to pay high rates,” he says, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na was an equally unexpected hit. So, adding, “it ultimately made the theatres bleed and die.” applying the same flat-rate principle to both the movies According to him, if the moviemakers wanted better returns, is illogical, and not workable.” they needed to come out with better product so that the The hitherto practice of the industry is to have a fixed exhibiting halls can fill out their capacities and make good rate of rental for each movie, say 48 per cent pay out to box office collections. Refuting the charge of producers the producers during the first week of the movie’s release, about multiplexes’ non-cinematic earnings, Fun Cinemas exec followed by 38 per cent for the second, and so on. This is says these earnings are similar to the producers’ selling the not accepted by moviemakers on the premise that music rights and DVD releases. “We never asked for a share exhibitors had been corning higher collections and they in them.” The innuendo is clear here. are not sharing the same. So, where is the end to the contention! Admitting to the producer’s view of unpredictability of a “We don’t see it as an outright contention,” the multiplex movie’s performance before its release, Shravan proposes chiefs clarify. “We both are mutually-dependent. We hope – as part of the exhibitors’ view – a ‘median line’ payment we will be able to reach a point of agreement.” where, the multiplex operator would pay certain amount to a movie, depending upon the agreement with the The patron community expects the same.
COMPARISON DISTRIBUTOR SHARE
COMPARISON DISTRIBUTOR SHARE
(In Rs. Lakh )
(Mumbai Circuit in Rs. crore)
LAGAAN (2001): • Nasik • Surat • Ahmedabad -
9.34 15.63 54.53
LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI (2006): • Nasik - 31.14 • Surat - 61.02 • Ahmedabad - 101.00
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• Raja Hindustani (1996)
• Lagaan (2001)
• Dhoom 2 (2006)
• Krrish (2006)
• Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006)
• Om Shanti Om (2007)
• Ghajani (2008)
Spirit of ‘Slumdog...’: Nitish Does a Lalu Now the entire world knows what a sensation Slumdog Millionaire is all about- thanks to the Oscar glory, if not flurry, the movie was honoured with. Add to it a bit of filmy masala too, in the most commonest format, and you have picture of the ‘common man’ at the centre of it.
if the ‘common man’ who took the Chief Minister to the movie house was given a chance to see the movie of his ‘identity’ or just made to wait outside till his prized patron returned from the movie. He was reported to have been paid Rs. 300 for the boastful pull.
Inspired by the notion of common man identifying oneself with the ‘rags-to-riches’ concept of the movie, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar recently took a rickshaw to watch the movie in a movie hall in Patna. The Chief Minister’s decided to use the common man’s transport to go to the movie hall. The moment it was known to the local police (through the CM’s security personnel), they apparently lounged onto surrounding places to find a suitable rickshaw for the CM. Azadi Yadav, who was waiting for passengers near the airport became their pick and, in the next scene, he had what might be his most coveted passenger everthe State Chief Minister.
Though this rickshaw ride reminds us of the similar ride enacted by the State former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav during the 1990s, the recent one is different in that it involved a visit to a cinema hall, and that too for the common man’s movie. The previous event, however, had a good script of fodder. For, Lalu, the then former CM, took rickshaw from the same place – 1, Anne Marg is official residence of Bihar Chief Minister – to CBI office in connection with the investigation into the infamous fodder scam.
As Nitish took the richshaw ride from his 1, Anne Marg residence to the Ashok cinema, his security personnel hopped onto bicycles for the fourk i l o m e t r e , b u m p y j o u r n e y. T h e J D ( U ) M L A Gayaneshwar Prasad and BJP MLC Sanjay Jha followed him on another rickshaw to the cinema hall. The cavalcade, of course, had a battery of mediapersons too, but in the comfort of their vehicles- courtesy the precious coverage equipment they had to shoulder. On reaching the otherwise very ordinary movie hall, the Chief Minister bought a ticket for himself at the counter and, this time, it was for the overawed gatekeeper to take the honours of guiding the ‘most potential patron’ to his seat in the Dress Circle. It, however, appeared free entry for most others, including the media groups, who filled the seats around the CM’s security cordon. “I had heard a lot about the movie that has won eight Oscar awards,” Nitish was reported as saying with the media. “I decided to take the mode of transport of common people to watch the movie... I wanted to relate with them.” Interestingly, the security personnel ensured that Azadi Yadav was there to drop the Chief Minister back when the latter came out from the hall after the movie. Nitish, however, rode straight to his party office from the cinema. We really don’t know
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Either way, the common man is benefited- like the lead character in the Slumdog movie! The lead character in the second episode, Azadi Yadav, wasn’t very elated with the ‘lucky pedalling’ of the day. “The same police keep roughing me up on and off,” he told mediamen referring to the cops who picked him up for the joyride! Can the reel Slumdog ... help effect a change in the lives of real slumdogs- as they are branded in the movie? Serious doubt indeed!
Entertainment Tax To Be Clubbed with GST! The Government of India is mulling over the idea of including entertainment tax in the Goods & Services Tax (GST) which is slated to be introduced from April 2010. Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting, and External Affairs Anand Sharma said that the government will consider the entertainment industry’s demand, articulated by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commmerce and Industry (FICCI), for inclusion of entertainment tax in GST itself, so that there is single tax on the industry. Addressing the gathering at the inaugural programme of the recently concluded FRAMES 2009 convention, the minister said that “we would take up with the Empowered Committee on VAT the industry’s demand for subsuming entertainment tax in the GST.” Sharma also added that the Indian government and the film industry needed to work together in order to create a film award, which would attract producers and actors globally and would be at par with the Oscars. He stressed on the point that Indian film festivals needed to think out of the box in order to bring the world to India just like indians attend global film festivals.
Regulation on technology! The minister also hinted at the possibilities of incorporating a regulatory framework on the technology to be used by the entertainment industry in the country. A framework of technology like the one for the telecom industry, was under discussion and a decision was expected soon, he disclosed. Responding to the observations by FICCI president Harsh Pati Singhania, Sharma said, “the government was prepared to consider the further requirements of the media and entertainment industry to weather the adverse fallout of the global economic crisis. Film producer and director Karan Johar – who was appointed co-chairman of the FICCI Entertainment Committee – said he feels honoured and privileged to be assigned this responsibility. “I feel small to take this place and thank everyone who thought I was capable of taking this role,” he said. “I am taking my father’s dream forward.” So, some critical moves on movie exhibition, and its means and ways are on. Only thing we don’t know is when and how they will take shape.
Pirating Cinema Caught by Watermark In what might be a first of its kind operation, E-City Ventures promoted E-City Digital Cinemas along with Yash Raj Films identified and took action against Chetna Cinema in Jetpur for allowing illegal camcorder recording of Dostana on its premises. Chetna Cinema is one of the theatres to which E-City had supplied Qube Digital Cinema servers as part of its digital expansion. What the pirates did not realize was that all Qube servers in India are equipped with Hollywood standards compliant forensic watermarking software from Thomson that can be used to identify the theatre from which the content has been captured using a camcorder. Executing a firm action to curb this illegal
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practice, E-City Digital has removed all its equipments and banned from showing any further Yash Raj Films in the single screen theatre. To protect motion picture content from in-theatre piracy, all the 126 screens managed by E-City Digital have embraced the Thomson NexGuard Watermarking technology provided by Real Image to their exhibition hardware. Any video recording made from the screen image of these theatres’ cinema projection will consist of the watermark slate, which is inserted during the playback of a film. E-City Digital Cinemas vicepresident Chandresh Daftary said, “video piracy is the biggest threat to the film business all over the world and E-City is fully committed to curb film piracy. E-City has been using the Thomson forensic watermarking system across all its digital cinemas and feels proud that the investment in this technology has paid-off.”
Hollywood Impact: MPA Opens India Office The Motion Picture Association (MPA) has finally opened its office in India. Following the Hollywood majors’ focused entry and recent increased investments in the Indian film and television industry, the MPA has now opened its India office– the Motion Picture Dist. Association (India) Pvt. Ltd.
Promoting the establishment of intellectual property courts
Enforcing intellectual property rights through legal measures and investigations
Furthering technological measures to protect rights holders’ content, and
The maiden MPA India office will be headed by Rajiv Dalal as director-India operations. The office, located in Mumbai, will serve as the voice and advocate of the American motion picture, home video and television industries in India.
Carrying out public outreach programmes to highlight to movie fans in the country why the creative art of motion pictures and television is worth protecting
“India is one of the fastest growing media and entertainment markets in the world. With over three billion total admissions in 2007 and multiplex screens increasing over 400 per cent from 193 in 2006 to 907 in 2011,” said Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. chairman and CEO Dan Glickman. “Our member studios have decided to participate towards this dynamic market by investing many millions of dollars into the Indian film and television industry,” he said, and added, “our new office will serve to promote, protect and expand their interests in India.” In particular, the MPA-India will work with local Indian film industries and the Indian government towards: •
Reducing market access restrictions and debilitating taxation
“While it is an exciting time in the Indian film industry, there are some serious obstacles to doing business here,” Glickman felt. “Entertainment taxes are amongst the highest in the world, and intellectual property theft is plaguing the entire industry,” he said, “now is the time for us to build a stronger presence in India so we can work with the local industry to find solutions to these challenges so we can continue creating the film and television products consumers all over the world love.” Glickman cited a US India Business Council report in 2008 which showed that the Indian film industry lost $959 million and 571,896 jobs due to piracy. Indian entertainment industry has already seen a number of co-productions, joint ventures, and local investments coming from Hollywood. Over the past 18 months, the film industry saw many tie ups and multi-picture deals between MPA member studios and Indian production houses.
Piracy: A $5b Bane on India Every Year The U.S. India Business Council (USIBC) expects a growth of over $5 billion a year in the media and entertainment industry if piracy is suppressed. According to a top executive of the USIBC, piracy is as much of a scourge to the industry when Indian movies are counterfeited in the U.S. as when Hollywood movies are pirated in India. The most immediate gains in the Indian media and entertainment industry revenues and employment can come from fighting intellectual-property piracy. At a discussion forum during the recently concluded FRAMES 2009 convention, the trade body announced the launch of a new study that will capture what counterfeiting and piracy means for an Indian filmmaker. According to the agency, a focussed programme titled “One Filmmaker’s Story: A Real-life Look at Counterfeiting and Piracy in India’s Entertainment Industry” will be used in a public information campaign against piracy. Last year with the participation of such Indian media and entertainment stalwarts as Yash Chopra, Amit Khanna, and Ramesh Sippy, USIBC released an Ernst and Young study showing that the Indian media and entertainment industry suffers a loss of 820,000 jobs and $4 billion
revenue each year to piracy and counterfeiting. As much as $959 million revenues and 571,896 jobs were lost by movie industry alone, the report noted. Speaking at the convention, the USIBC Director-Policy Advocacy Michael DiPaula-Coyle felt India and U.S. had great opportunities to be tapped for mutual benefit. She hoped that 2009 will usher in a new spirit of cooperation between the U.S. and India in media and entertainment. “Nowhere is the new spirit of cooperation between our two countries more apparent than in the field of media and entertainment. These industries serve as important cultural ambassadors, spreading the spirit of our two countries abroad while providing employment and good wages for millions.” According to the USIBC, “the best is yet to come” if the U.S. and India work together to address challenges and create new economic opportunities. This means protecting intellectual property and creativity, tearing down barriers to trade and investment, and creating a business environment that fosters international collaboration. The USIBC also laid out an agenda to further strengthen U.S.-India media and entertainment growth. The trade April-June 2009
body believes U.S.-India co-production and other forms of cooperation in media and entertainment should increase to $1.5 billion per year for the next three years. However, both countries face serious tax and regulatory barriers to enable full U.S.-India cooperation. The uncertainty and inconsistency of Indian tax administration is a burden to U.S. and Indian businesses in media and entertainment. Tax issues related to transfer pricing, downlink policy and permanent establishment, limitations on foreign direct investment, and price controls in the television industry are all impediments to growth.
Coyle felt that U.S.-India cooperation in technology and convergence, as they apply to the media and entertainment industry, will bring about economic growth similar to that which has occurred in the field of information technology-assisted services. The world class abilities of the Indian media and entertainment industry in animation, visual effects, and all areas involving computerization are well known and highly respected by the U.S. industry, said the official. The convergence of film, recorded music, television, radio, the Internet and the many other forms of telecommunication is the wave of the future and dovetails completely with Indian and U.S. capabilities.
European Union Film Fete at Fun Cinemas After successfully hosting quite a few foreign film festivals, Fun Cinemas, recently became host to the 14th European Union Film Festival in Mumbai. The festival took place from 1321 March at Fun Cinemas, Fun Republic Mall at Andheri. European movie buffs were in for a real treat this time around with a host of new and exciting movies. “It is a matter of pride for Fun Cinemas to be the first multiplex ever to partner with the European Union in promoting their cinema, said Shirish Handa, Senior Vice President Marketing, Fun Cinemas. “Fun Cinemas EU Film Festival combined the flavours of
thriller, romantic comedy, adventure, fantasy, suspense and even horror,” he said, adding “we have made sure that we catered to every mood and preference.” The Film Festival showcased two great movies everyday in the evening at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. The movies also had sub-titles in English. In all, the festival showed 17 great European movies from Spain, Belgium, Austria, Spain, Sweden, Italy and Ireland. The EU Film Festival is a bouquet of films that give vivid reflections of the cultural streams of Europe and stories that describe the European life.
Multiplex Money Matters Adlabs Films’ Net Down in Q3 Adlabs Films Ltd has reported a consolidated net loss of Rs. 26.86 crore in Q3 2009 ending December 2008 as compared to a consolidated net profit of Rs 20.49 crore in the same quarter last fiscal. The company’s consolidated total income rose to Rs. 248.11 crore for the quarter under review from Rs. 129.45 crore in the same period previous fiscal. Adlabs has incurred a standalone net loss of Rs. 33.54 crore in December quarter 2008 as compared to a net profit of Rs. 20.49 crore in the same period previous year. The standalone total income increased to Rs 1.83
billion (Rs 183.18 crores) during the third quarter in review from Rs 1.12 billion (Rs 112.70 crores) last year. Adlabs Films CEO Anil Arjun said, “we have scaled our businesses and provide a comprehensive range of services to film clients. All business segments enjoy dominant leadership positions. During the quarter, our distribution division had a record-breaking successful release in Ghajini in the international markets.” The company’s cinema division, however, recorded impressive revenue growth by 139 per cent to Rs. 101 crore whereas film processing and services division recorded a 54 per cent increase in revenues to Rs. 37 crore. Additionally, in order to unlock the potential of FM radio business, it has been proposed to demerge the FM Radio business with effect from 1 April, 2008. A unanimous resolution to this effect was adopted at a recent meeting of the company shareholders. For the quarter ended 31 December, 2008, BIG 92.7 FM recorded a total income of Rs. 49 crore. Promoters Raise Stake: The promoters of Adlabs Films have upped their holding to about 60 per cent by purchasing additional 2.17 per cent stake in the
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company for a consideration of Rs. 16.62 crore. The promoters, namely, Reliance Capital, Reliance Land and AAA Entertainment, have raised their stake in the company to 59.96 per cent by purchasing an additional 10 lakh shares from the open market. Adlabs promoters, who held 57.79 per cent as of the third quarter of the fiscal ending December 2008, now hold 59.96 per cent stake comprising 2.76 crore shares post acquisition.
Pyramid Saminathan Reduces Stake It’s divestment time or so it seems for Pyramid Saimira Theatre Limited, the Chennai-headquartered cinema entertainment company. As many as three promoters of the troubled enterprise have sold majority of their stake in the company in the recent months. The company chairman-managing director PS Saminathan has sold 6.037 per cent stake in the company for Rs. 6.42 crore, reducing his holding in the company to 17.99 per cent from the earlier stake of 24.03 per cent. He sold 17, 07,000 equity shares in an off-market sale late last year, according to sources. Saminathan now holds 5,086,614 equity shares in the company say sources. Additionally, the company also informed that another promoter Uma Saminathan has offloaded during the third quarter of the current fiscal her entire holding of 0.54 per cent which is equal to 1.52 lakh shares sold for Rs. 72.96 lakh. Interestingly, another promoter in the company Nirmal Kotecha was also reported to have sold nearly 10 per cent in the company during the same period bringing his stake from 24.89 per cent to 15.49 per cent.
PVR’s Q3 Revenues Up by 17 pc PVR Limited announced a revenue growth of 17 per cent for the quarter and nine months ending 31 December, 2008, over the same period during the last financial year. Total Revenue from operations for the quarter ended December 2008, were Rs. 76.6 crore as compared to Rs. 65.63 crore during the corresponding quarter ended December 2007. EBIDTA declined from Rs. 15.54 crore in Q3 2007-08 to Rs. 15.16 crore during the quarter under review. PAT for the quarter under review was around Rs. 4.68 crore before exceptional items relating to tax provision for earlier quarters. After exceptional items, the PAT for the quarter was Rs 195 lakhs.
the corresponding period ended December 2007. EBIDTA declined marginally from Rs. 44.20 crore during first nine months ended December 2007 to Rs. 43.68 crore earned this year. PAT for nine months under review was around Rs. 13.76 crore as compared to Rs. 18.36 crore during the corresponding period of previous year. According to the company, Q3 2008-09 – as against similar quarter last year – was a relatively weaker quarter for the cinema exhibition industry. The quarter was marked with concerns about safety / security in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks, which impacted the occupancy levels across malls and multiplexes. Moreover, the content pipeline was also comparatively weaker as compared to Q3 2007-08, which witnessed release of five major hits. The quarter under review started with three flops Kidnap, Hello and Drona, and witnessed only a few major releases such as Dostana, Fashion, Golmal Returns, Ghajini and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, with Ghajini playing only for a limited time during the quarter under review. However, net operating income for the quarter under review grew at a robust rate of 17 per cent led by revenue contribution from new properties and robust growth in advertisement revenues. During the quarter under review, PVR commenced the operations of Mumbai’s largest multiplex at Phoenix Mills at Lower Parel, comprising seven screens with 1847 seats. With the opening of Phoenix property, PVR now operates a network of 108 screens located at 26 locations across 14 cities in nine states and one Union Territory. ”The current year has been a challenging period for the exhibition industry, considering the weaker film performance in comparison with similar period last year and growing concerns about safety in the wake of recent terrorist attacks that affected the overall patron turnout at our cinemas,” PVR chairman and managing director Ajay Bijli said. “However, we have demonstrated promising growth in revenues, led by additions of new properties, higher ticket / F & B realizations and robust growth in advertisement revenues,” he said and added, “we remain highly bullish about the long-term prospects of the film entertainment sector, especially the exhibition space, in India and expect the sector to grow at robust rate in next few years.”
For the nine months ended December 2008, total revenues increased by 18 per cent- from operations was Rs. 21.672 crore as compared to Rs. 18.343 lakh during April-June 2009
• SPECIAL FEATURE •
Reflections of Recession The U.S.-induced global recession – considered bigger than that of the Great Depression of 1930s – has finally began showing its reflections. Parried till recently by the industry movers and shakers as ‘no impact,’ the economic downturn, is apparently now turning down the industry’s expectations of market recovery in the near term! Budget freeze, cost-cutting (if not job cutting), counting on saving measures, and wait-and-watch have become the new standard set of expressions- with, of course, very few exceptions. TM tries to find out the Indian industry reflections on what appears to be longer than expected concern. Here is what some of the industry captains feel…
Tushar Dhingra, COO-Big Cinemas On how the recession impacted Indian cinema exhibition business... It’s difficult to say whether the current scenario is more due to the recession or due to the lack of exciting content. Much of the recent negativity surrounding the cinema business can be attributed to the fact that some major releases such as Chandni Chowk to China, Billu and Delhi 6 did not perform as expected at the box office. On the impact on Big Cinemas... Speaking for BIG Cinemas, we have launched three cinemas in February ’09 alone - in Zirakpur (Chandigarh), Greater Noida and Aurangabad. Whatever the global recession scenario, consumer spending is still on the rise in these markets, and they are hungry for better entertainment choices. As part of the Reliance ADA group, we have a long term view. Our objective has always been to have a significant share of the box office pie by 2010 and for that we need to continue our expansion drive. Our strategy, especially in smaller cities, has always been fairly low cost, of refurbishing and rebranding existing cinemas. The introduction of digital cinema and other new technology will also help cut costs for all concerned parties. The correction in real estate prices will also help us. On the notion that Indian cinema exhibition has nothing to do with global recession... There is some truth in that. It is widely accepted that India is one of the economies least affected by the global
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recession. Furthermore, the entertainment industry is known to be fairly impervious to slumps. Also, Hollywood films constitute only five per cent of the Indian box office. There’s no doubt that content is a strong driver in the cinema business. Moreover, the multiplex phenomenon has happened despite so much competition from other factors such as TV, home video, piracy. People will always want to watch a great film in a cinema. On the notion that the industry has actually gained- to make a better bargain with cinema equipment and distribution majors who are under selling pressure... It is again true to some extent. The current scenario has resulted in realistic prices since only serious players are pursuing deals. So, there are opportunities to make a bargain for realistic prices. On measures required to handle the difficult times... We have already made ticket prices more affordable- apart from the cut in sales tax. Last month, we had tied up with Maruti A-Star and Luck By Chance for a free car give-away and had also done some exciting promotions for Valentine’s Day. This month, we have been promoting novel F&B options such as sushi at select cinemas. Flexipricing is a fairly basic way of attracting various segments. Naturally, we need to keep in mind our catchments during pricing. Nevertheless, our challenge is to grab a fair share of the consumer’s disposable time. What he/she does with this disposable time is more content-led rather than price-led.
• SPECIAL FEATURE • On leveraging alternative content for attracting patrons... We took some steps in the direction. For example, we were the first to have shown films like Ghajini and Luck
by Chance with subtitles on our digital screens, a move which was appreciated as it makes Hindi cinema more accessible to the hearing impaired and non-Hindi speakers.
Alok Tandon, COO – INOX Leisure Ltd. On how the recession impacted Indian cinema exhibition business... The bigger challenge facing the exhibition business today is the lack of quality content. The past few quarters have been poor as a result of that. However, we have also seen movies like Ghajini, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and Singh is King doing exceedingly well, thereby proving that content that is king. We do hope that this economic setback is temporary and that the situation corrects itself soon. On the impact on Inox’s business... Our new property launches have been more or less on track as far as timelines go. We have not changed our expansion plans as a result of the slowdown. On the notion that Indian cinema exhibition has nothing to do with global recession? Since India is not an isolated economy the global recession will have an effect on it. As far as the exhibition industry goes, people are becoming more discerning when it comes to parting with their hard earned money. Content therefore becomes that much more important.
On the notion that the industry has actually gained- to make a better bargain with cinema equipment and distribution majors who are under selling pressure... Not really as it all depends on the exchange rate of the day. On measures are required to handle the difficult times... As said earlier, the exhibition industry faces a bigger threat from the lack of quality content. However, if the economic slowdown worsens then we are likely to see a cut in peoples discretionary spends like eating out, traveling, going to the movies etc. (So, churning out good content is the most important requirement) On the measures by Inox... We are constantly innovating when it comes to having value for money promotions for our patrons. To that end, we have flexi pricing where the ticket rate differs depending upon time of the day and day of the week, flat pricing on low traffic days of the week, loyalty programmes with credit cards companies etc.
Mukhesh Gupta, CEO, Broadway On how the recession impacted Indian cinema exhibition business... It has impacted to certain level, the ticket prices have come down and foot falls have reduced. However, lower foot falls is also due to lack of good movie content, and examination time for the young generations who account for major chunks of foot falls. On the impact on HDIL-Broadway’s business... Not exactly impact, I would say we are going a little cautious. We do have several offers from the developers for taking up the projects, but we are measuring the uncertainty in the market since any hasty move at this time would may drag the projects beyond their stipulated launch time. We, therefore, do not want to block our finances in every project. As the credit facility from global banking institutions has dramatically fallen, if not freezed, the impact is certainly felt to some extent. Since cinema building is part of the construction industry which largely depends on credit facility, the impact is tangible. On deferred or cancelled business plans... We have not deferred or cut down our business plan at least for this year. We have as many as 16 more screens getting ready for launch by October 2009. Fit out is already on for 10
screens, and plans for the rest are on the drawing board stage. On the notion that Indian cinema exhibition has nothing to do with global recession... Not true. This year we haven’t got any hit so far. Though the poor quality of the content being churned out has a critical role for a poor box office, it is, at the same time, also true that people have become very choosy. The movie watching tendancy has clearly got diluted, and dampened. From three movies a month till recently, it has now come down to just one movie in a month, and if only the movie is really good. People today do not take any chances and are bringing down their splurging habits. This has affected the collections at the box office. On the notion that the industry has actually gainedto make a better bargain with cinema equipment and distribution majors who are under selling pressure... Yes, to certain extent. One- as it is, the Industry is going through one of its biggest technology changes; two- thanks to the increased access to information and awareness among cinema builders who now stand to make a judgment on what composition or configuration of April-June 2009
• SPECIAL FEATURE • equipment makes a better business sense for them even as it also provides quality proposition. Prices of most equipment packages have certainly been affected which, in a sense, can be construed as a gain for the user.
discount schemes, besides reducing admission rates. We are preparing ourselves with the better provisions offered at lowered prices. In our malls we are making food courts and restaurants low cost entities to make patrons comfortable on their valets, so that they wish to come back again.
On measures required to handle the difficult times... Better ticket prices, more facilities, good, unique schemes to attract patrons, and of course, good quality movie content. In most cases, even a good quality content cannot assure continued footfalls if it is not supported by attractive promo schemes since the market is fiercely competitive. On part of Broadway, we have brought into place several
On HDIL doing digital cinema either in full 2K digital model or otherwise... Yes! We are evaluating the option of full 2K digital model to improvise upon our quality offerings, in line with the demands of the trade. In fact, all our new screens will be equipped with 2K digital projection systems.
Ranjit Thakur, CEO, MRH Digital Systems On how the recession impacted Indian cinema exhibition business... India lives in middle class houses, and so does the cinema business. The recession has made them sit back and rethink of the marketing strategies to get back their loyal patrons- like the recent reduction in the ticket prices across the board. The lack of quality content also made people becoming very choosy on movies they want to watch in theatres. Occupancy hit bottom. All said and done, content has a bigger role than recession.
On the notion that Indian cinema exhibition has nothing to do with global recession... I am of the belief that in India, the two giant ‘C’s i.e. Cricket and Cinema have nothing to do with global recession. Cricket proved this in its recent player auctions held in Goa for IPL. Cinema needs good quality content to get back firm on its feet. The industry needs another ‘Ghajini’ type and I am sure people would come knocking at theatres too.
On the impact on MRH & Scrabble’s business... So far, we have not been impacted as far as the projects are concerned- we are in the process of executing our orders-in-hand that are at various stages of completion, and are hopeful that the slowdown would not last for long. In fact, we are already seeing movement on the next phase of orders from our prestigious multiplex chains. We are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and future doesn’t look as bleak as it is considered.
On the notion that the industry has actually gainedto make a better bargain with cinema equipment and distribution majors who are under selling pressure... The situation would have been better except that the rupee has taken a beating against international currencies. It has not impacted us in any way. On measures required to handle the difficult times...
On the slow rate of cinema launches as reflection of recession... Every Industry goes through a phase where one feels they have reached a point of saturation. The multiplex industry has attained a strong hold in all major metros and semimetros like Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, etc. The focus is now shifting to tier-II and III centres where waters are being tested. There is, therefore, a slowness in cinema launches, but it does not reflect recession in any way. However, as mentioned earlier, we have been fortunate enough to not get impacted yet due to the the existing orders.
Penny wise, pound foolish is the norm to be followed in any meltdown. Those who have control over their expenses / overheads will survive and come out stronger than ever. There are no measures taken by MRH as of now. The multiplex players have moved to the tier-II and III centres where budgets are a constraint. MRH introduced its 3way speakers and increased its range of products to help clients meet their requirements.
Jayendra Panchapakesan, Founder-Director, Real Image Media Technologies On the impact of recession... We, as solution providers to both Indian, and international markets, are concerned with not just about the domestic market but also our overseas market as well. Several projects which have been fully signed up, have been stalled. They are either kept in abeyance or finding it difficult to proceed further. The main reason
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is that whatever finances that they have tied up earlier for these projects are not there anymore. There is a lot of uncertainty and lack of clarity as to when they would begin to roll out again. So, there is a definite impact so far as our overseas market is concerned. As for the Indian market, the situation is a little better. Projects signed earlier on have been
• SPECIAL FEATURE • going on, but the new ones have slowed down. It is difficult to say if the market will sustain the current rate, or will further slow down in the months to come. On how deep is the impact / how much business is lost... I don’t think in today’s situation anybody can say the worst is over. Our view is that the worst is yet to come. So the impact can be as deep as one’s guess. It can’t be measured – in percentage points or billions of dollars, so to say, at this point in time. It can, however, be perceived by the number of projects lost or grounded. Projects turning non-starters is a 100 per cent loss, and there are many projects like that- which means the impact is significant.‘ On the notion that Indian cinema exhibition has nothing to do with global recession... Internationally, entertainment industry had long been corporatized. There is hardly any enterprise in the business that does not have a corporate funding and regulatory mechanism- which is why the impact is felt so severe in global markets. In India too, several corporate have moved into the industry– beginning with the exhibition industry itself over the last 10 years’ time or so. Today, all the three segments of the cinema industry – production, distribution, and
exhibition – are mostly owned and run by corporate who’s funding plans are strongly tied up with other industries in the economic process chain. It is therefore difficult to dissociate entertainment industry, or the exhibition industry, to be very precise, from the recession. The impact of recession on other major industries has, and will have, an impact on cinema business as well. The widely believed notion of good content being the only key to filling out a cinema hall is not true. Just because the content is good, it does not guarantee good returns too. If people are jobless, and worried about their running commitments – let alone the future – their priority to go out for movie watching is that much lesser. There have been numerous media reports on millions of jobs being lost every month in the U.S. with the unemployment hitting 8.1 per cent, and thousands of Indians coming back to India jobless. In such a situation, disposable money becomes a question mark, and this will have a clear bearing on the cinema industry, with a spiralling effect. So, it’s a loss of business overall. On how soon the markets are likely to recover... Looking from today’s situation, it may take anywhere between 18 to 24 months for the markets to bounce back. It can take more time also.
• SPECIAL FEATURE • Devang Sampat, Sr Vice-President-Cinemax India Ltd. On how the recession impacted Indian cinema exhibition business... Entertainment has always been a contentdriven business and its arms like distribution and exhibition follow the same rule. If the content is right, patrons surely come to theatres. We have seen movies like Rab Ne Banaa Di Jodie and Ghajini doing excellent business amidst high pressures of recession. There can’t be a better fare than a good movie for people wanting a perfect outing. Therefore, if the movies coming to cinemas have that pull, moviegoers are sure to shell money. Since the movie production segment has slowed down – there are several reasons, including credit crunch which is obviously due to recession – the impact would gradually flow down to other related segments, including exhibition. On impact on Cinemax’s business... The actual impact is because of bad content. We had huge expectations from movies like Chandi Chauk to China and Delhi 6 which could have been huge grossers, but they failed. Now the whole situation is looking gloomy. Obviously, our business is impacted as we don’t have potential blockbusters to screen. Add on this, the on-going examination period that will keep away the young, and the ensuing IPL which surely will take away almost the whole Indian patron community. So, impact is, and will be there. On deferred or cancelled project launches / promos... Our expansion plan is intact, and we are steady with our pace of launches. In fact, we have launched three properties in the last month’s time- Cinemax Kolkata, Cinemax Hyderabad and Cinemax Kalyan. And, yes, we agree that almost every multiplex chain has cut down its business/branding plan. We also reduced costs considerably in various segments where it was needed. The absence of distributor’s ads in news dailies is one just instance. But we see opportunity in this, too. The age-old practise of barter is again gaining momentum, and we are getting space in media by offering space in our multiplexes. On the notion that Indian cinema exhibition has nothing to do with global recession... Indian cinema will survive irrespective of the global recession. It won’t affect much in exhibition as much of foreign funding contributes to production, which is entirely a different ball game. As stated earlier, the movie production is seeing some slowdown and this would gradually spread to other segments in the coming years. On the notion that the industry has actually gained- to
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make a better bargain with cinema equipment and distribution majors who are under selling pressure... To some extent, yes. The costs of cinema building were skyrocketing due to various factors including equipment and sophisticated product ranges. The competition in the market has also compelled the players to take higher costs. However, a correction was very much required, and this is the time of rectification. The prices have seemingly come to a reality level now. So, it can be a gain for the cinema builders. On measures required to handle the difficult times... What all we can do now is marketing of movies with innovative schemes and wait for better content to come. We have been known for providing the platform for innovative marketing of movies which we hope will help us get better footfalls. We have been doing lot of events like music launches, charity screenings and special screenings, and first-look launches of movies. We come up with interesting schemes and contests to attract our patrons. Recently, we ran Rab Ne Banaa Di Jodie café combos at all our locations, and the response was overwhelming. The winners were arranged to meet Shahrukh Khan personally. Similarly, we ran Ghajini café combos which worked wonders for us. Our loyalty programme is already doing well. Recently, we had one innovative tie-up wherein the patrons booking tickets from our website would be entitled to win the Biba dress material. Our Cafe-Combo scheme is made attractive where the winning-patron could win a car. We recently launched a new loyalty programme at Cinemax Ahmadabad where we offered a MAX CARD to the patrons at Cinemax box-office which provided heavy discounts on our brands- Cinemax, Giggles (gaming zone) and Indulge (food court). This has gone quite well with patrons.
• INDIAPLEXING •
City of Joy Gets a Double The ethereal experiences of solving mysteries, and demolishing the baddies with Spiderman, Harry Potter and the ilk, on the giant screen, have now come to thrill movie lovers in Kolkata as the ‘City of Joy’ gets a cinematic double in one entity- the Mani Square. The latest embellishment to the city’s entertainment picture promises to add all that cinematic wonders to the moviegoers experiences. A TM report. – Divya Rajgarhia Kolkata’s cinematic profile is in for a ‘giant’ change. For, the arrival of the giant-screen Imax theatre, along with a sophisticated three-screen multiplex, coming as part of the massive Mani Square Mall at Saltlake – on the Maniktalla Road on the E M Bye Pass – promises to bring a whole new paradigm shift in the way movies are watched in the eastern metropolis. Both the entertainment entities are created on the third level of the 7.10 lakh-square feet up-market ‘shoppertainment’ destination, that also has a horror stuff Scary House, second such entity after the first in Hyderabad’s Prasad Imax.
The Cinemaxperience in Kolkata
As one enters the mall, one is only tempted by McDonald’s and other branded outlets that greet the visitor at the outset. For the serious movie lovers, the escalator leads them to the third floor where cinematic zone houses Cinemax and Imax. The Box office, shared by both, is just outside the entrance on the left, and is uniquely done up in red. There are plans to open another box office on the ground floor to ease the rush and make it more comfortable for movie patrons. Plasma screens behind the counter beautify the ambience as well as give information of the current movies. On entering Cinemax, one finds a foyer with a red lounge on one side and the concessions stand on the other side. The marble white floor makes the red geometrically
Impeccable audio visual experience, celebrity-studded premieres and first initiator of Gold Class theatre characterize the Cinemax multiplex. Coming as did, after Inox, Fame and Big Cinemas, the fourth Mumbai-based multiplex chain wants to grab its share in the growing Kolkata cinema market with its own set of USPs. “Our USP is our service,” says Devang Sampat, senior vicepresident at Cinemax. “The movie watching experience at Cinemax is extraordinary and we know how to please our patrons,” he says, adding “we offer quality service and make sure that the each patron is taken care of personally.” Cinemax has actually launched the multiplex during the last week of December.
Entrance into Cinemaxperience
• INDIAPLEXING •
The box office and the concessions: The new fare to entertain
designed seating arrangements strikingly attractive .The walls are decorated with plasma screens all over the foyer showcasing the latest and the upcoming movies. A unique feature of cinemax is the star wall which has black and white photographs of Bollywood stars like Amitabh Bachhan, Katrina Kaif, Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan aligned on the wall. The foyer has a flexible, striped LED on the wall of the lounge and the ceiling like multiple arches bathing the foyer in myriad shades of light enhancing the beauty of the ambience. Cinemax has a total seating capacity of 758, and Imax has a 450-seat auditorium respectively. Each hall is lined with red seats coupled with red walls and blue or black carpets lining the floor. Patrons can cherish their movie watching
experience as they sink into as much as 150-degree recliners even as they savour personalized café and snack services. The state –of-the-art facilities like Dolby digital sound and Christie projection enhance the movie watching experience. That it entered a market that is already being fought for by three big, potential players Inox, Fame, and Big Cinemas, it may be a big game for Cinemax. Reiterates Devang: “Cinemax had been working on an expansion plan for all these years and Kolkata project was already on the agenda. As the formalities and necessary permissions were complete, we started it with a soft launch.”
The central atrium on level-3 leading to the multiplex
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• INDIAPLEXING • The Giant Cinema:
One of the auditoria, draped in Cinemaxican Red
According to him, the company’s launches are executed systematically as per the intended timelines, unperturbed by the recession whatsoever. Rejecting the view that recession has been depriving multiplexes of their regular patrons, the Cinemax top exec feels entertainment industry in India is recession-proof and the economic slowdown is more psychological than real- which was why two more Cinemax theatres are lined up for Kolkata, one in La-vida mall in Saltlake and one in place of Hind cinemathe Hind Cinemax. “In fact, we launched three propertiesCinemax Kolkata, Cinemax Hyderabad and Cinemax Kalyan in one month of what is referred to as recession,” he points out.
The reel-life sharks are now real enough to run shivers down the spines in the movie hall in Kolkata as the giant and ravenous jaws leap out of the screens to feed on viewers. So will be the hissing of snakes, and swooping in of dinosaurs, not to speak of the deafening sounds of zooming space shuttles and earth drifting avalanches- all this experienced on the eight-storey high giant screen, amidst 15,000 watt of intense light and 12,000 watt sound that is powered by six highpower speakers and eight subwoofers. That’s the Imax theatre in Kolkata with 450 plush seats, including 29 recliners in the last row. The Rs. 18 crore-cinema screens Hollywood blockbusters that have been transformed into the unparalleled image and sound quality of the Imax experience with Imax DMR (Digital re mastering) technology, as well as entertaining documentaries, in both Imax and Imax 3D. It plans to show underwater and outer space, and dinosaur films that will take audience to places they would never imagine possible.
The lounge oozing luxury with glitz and glamour
• INDIAPLEXING •
Another view of entrance into the cinema
The writing is on the wall: Never say ‘no’ to movies
The cinema boasts quality of service will speak volumes for it. The recliner seats, state -of- the -art interiors, quality sound and reasonable rates are cited to be its forte and the concept of bringing Bollywood to patrons is an additional milieu where it scores. Cinemax Kolkata intends patronising Bengali cinema as a tribute to cinematic legends like Satyajit Ray, Aparna Sen and Rituparna Ghosh. The presence of Aeren IMAX adjacent to it is taken as a definite crowd-puller giving an additional option to viewers. Foyer area leading to auditorium-1 and 2
The cinematic attractions en route to auditorium-3
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• SPECIAL FEATURE •
India’s Oldest Running Cinema
Elgin Talkies – Breathing Nostalgia – Bhavanashi Ramakrishna Sometime in 1896 – even as India was coming together in its struggle for Independence from the British – a culturally inclined Mudaliar built in Bangalore an enclosed space for stage plays and dramas. He named it Elgin Hall, after the then Viceroy of India Victor Alexander Bruce, 9th Earl of Elgin, and fostered art and cultural forms of the land for decades to follow. As many as 112 years later, the Elgin is still running, albeit in a different format – as Elgin Talkies – but much to the nostalgia of the current inheritor. Today, it’s India’s oldest operational cinema hall, basking in bigger glory than Kolkata’s Chaplin- India’s earliest permanent theatre. As part of its continuing focus on India’s standalone cinematic ‘heritage’ symbols, TM, this time, presents a leaf out of the century-old nostalgia. Bengaluru- the face of today’s cosmopolitan India, as also the city of many legacies, of culture and, of course, cultural constructions. A city where modernity co-exists with heritage. A paradigm of its own. Symbolising this, probably at its best, is one of the most unassuming entities in townthe Elgin Talkies. Tucked away in a corner, in the hustle and bustle of Shivajinagar, one of the oldest localities of original Bengaluru, is the Elgin Talkies running uninterrupted for over a century. It saw history turning its leaves one after the other! Built in 1896 by Veerabhadra Mudaliar, and named after Viceroy Elgin, the Elgin Hall – as it was called at the time
– was one of the best play houses its time in the country. Designed by a British architect, as per the European styles in currency, it used to ‘stage’ all kinds plays and dramas, mainly from the South Indian languages. For about 25 years, the Elgin Hall continued to enthral art lovers with its variance of stage shows. However, taking the first big change in its long ensuing journey from live entertainment into filmed entertainment, the Elgin got converted to silent movie theatre in 1920. April-June 2009
• SPECIAL FEATURE •
Ceiling of a different kind: The clay-tiled ceiling wih semi-circle, dome shaped openings (observe the right side pic), said to be a measure of acoustics and ventilation
“That was the first big change in Elgin history,” says A S Krishnamurthy, Elgin’s current owner. “The rates of admissions were just half-anna, and one-anna (three paise and six paise),” he churns out a point or two. Sounds strange! It continued the multilingual tradition, ‘silently’, though cinematically. After running for some eleven years like that, it got converted into talkie in 1932, with the advent of talkie cinema- taking the talkie revolution in its stride. Given its exalted status by the time as also the need for the talkie films to reach out to people, it had the privilege of screening India’s first talkie movie Alam Ara in 1932 (The movie was actually released in 1931 but Elgin got it the following year). The theatre installed sound and projection system from Simplex – imported form the USA and regarded as the best among all at the time – which is still running, uncompromisingly. According to Krishnamurthy, the projection system has the audio system incorporated into it. The system, still running on carbon arc, is supported by expert engineers who conduct repairs whenever required. It’s been running for over 80 years now, and still counting. He has not changed the projection or the sound system till now. It was only recently that the amplifiers were
changed into transisterised amps because, the valves of the amps are not available today. They are no longer manufactured. “I had to change them much against my wish,” the Elgin owner reveals, “because the valved amplifier has wonderful sound reproduction capability. The modern digital technology may be a way up, but in conventional analog systems, the valved amps are the best to the best of my knowledge.” For him, it was unfortunate that he had to change them, having enjoyed the thrills through decades.
Unique Design Elgin probably boasts one of the most uniquely conceived theatre design and what can be a case study for today’s cinema designers. The clay tiled-roof, vaulted on either side, features at regular interludes semi-circled domes which are direct openings from inside, letting the air and light pass through, only to be stopped by the false ceiling below the roof. There are no extra fittings, or sophistications incorporated. Still, they are boasted to be doing the perfect acoustic job- in comparison with the technology means available today.
The layout of Elgin Talkies design
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• SPECIAL FEATURE •
The Elgin interiors (l-r): One of the sidewall, the acoustically-treated false ceiling of side wall, and the auditorium
“I used to wonder why so many ventilations were made to the roof,” recalls Krishnamurthy. “It’s only when one of my sound engineers told me that they are acoustical design elements that prevent any echo in the hall,” says the proud owner, “till this day, I haven’t experienced any echo.” There is one more row of rectangular vents - made in the wall - below the roof. These openings can be seen from inside the hall. The auditorium is a conventionally rectangular hall, yet quite different from the convention in that it has hugely spacious corridor like walkways on either side of the seating area that is separated by a colonnade on either side. One of the corridor’s false ceiling had been treated by Anutone acoustic panels while the other side is covered by Plaster of Paris tiles. Krishnamurthy says he intends to do full acoustic treatment but doesn’t know when. The seating is down-to-earth, i.e. wooden chairs and all-
common on Rs. 25 per head. No classes or dress circle. The theatre earlier had benches also. A few years ago, Krishnamurthy introduced cushion seats between the benches and the wooden seats. However, they didn’t even last for three months- thanks to the kind of audience the cinema has become dearer, of late. Krishnamurthy was compelled to remove them all and put back the wooden seats. The original theatre had a total of 542 seats, including balcony. The current owner removed them, owing to their non-viability. Elgin has passed through four generations of fond ownerships. From Veerabharda to Natesha to Srinivasa Mudaliar to Krishnamurthy, the fourth in line. Before Krishnamurthy took over the ownership in 1980, his brother had a brief stint with the theatre management after his father. He recounts how, in those days, he would see people coming to the theatre in jatkas (horse carts that were used up to the late 60s in Bangalore) from
• SPECIAL FEATURE • neighbouring Sheshadripuram, Palace Guttahalli and even the Avenue Road areas. There was a separate ladies counter for obtaining tickets. Now, of course, there is only a single cubicle selling tickets. Commemorating Indian cinema’s Platinum Jubilee in 2006, Elgin Talkies screened Laila Majnu, the 1954 blockbuster, as part of the film festival organized by Film Federation of India. That’s truly one of the golden moments for a cinema that had actually played host to many more ‘golden’ movies. The cinema, which had seen its ‘golden’ era under Krishnamurthy’s father Srinivasa Mudaliar, maintains a meticulous record of all the movies screened at the theatre since its inception. So, a repository of film archives is kept in tact, and assiduously maintained. Today, it runs only second- or third-run movies, and in an allegedly apathetic condition. Faced against the multiplex onslaught, the glitz and glamour of modernity, how does fare? Krishnamurthy is unfazed. “We’re not in that league,” he replies coolly. “We cater to only lower middle-class audience who cannot afford today’s multiplex costs,” he explains, “we have been breaking even with good occupancy, so no qualms, whatsoever.” Having said that, he admits that last one year had really been tough. And, he has no duality of thoughts. “We will run as long as we are able to breakeven.” To hold onto the existing patronage, Elgin performs annual renovation of exteriors and interiors with white wash and colour wash, besides repairing the damaged seats. Every six years it revamps the seating. How about converting Elgin into modern-day standalone or pompous multiplex? Krishnamurthy refutes strongly on two grounds: one- the theatre is heritage structure, and he wants to foster it; two- it doesn’t give so much revenue to tempt him into revamping it totally. He is running it because it is running. He doesn’t want to think beyond.
The projection: Simply Simplex, runninig since 1932, and still counting; (right) the rack where film reals are boxed
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Membership certificiate accorded to Elgin Talkies by Mysore Film Chamber of Commerce (now Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce) on 10 March 1973
Thankfully for Bengalurians, there’s no such case till now as what’s happening to Chaplin in Kolkata. So, at least one heritage structure – it is not known yet if it is listed like that or not – is still in business, breathing nostalgia.
• TECHNOLOGY •
New Horizons of Indian Cinema – Bhavanashi Ramakrishna Ever since the digital cinema concept was being sold to Indian cinema operators as well as patrons, one of the USPs of the format was ‘alternative content.’ For long, it remained elusive, since the main format itself was looking hazy. However, with things beginning to improve dramatically over the past few months, the added advantages also began to follow, and here comes the ‘first delivery’- the alternative content for cinemas made and delivered in digital format. And in India’s own inimitable style- thanks to the bold initiative made by a triumvirate- one of whom is already known for daring exploits. Real Image Media Technologies, Aghal Films, and Sathyam Cinemas – all Chennai-based cinema enterprises – recently launched Indian cinema onto an altogether new horizon (of alternative content)! TM, in its special feature this time, presents a perspective. Mid December 2008! Movie theatres in India, generically shorn of good box office collectors for long, had been longing for some big saviour. Someone called Ghajini was in the offing, and every cinema operator worth name was anxious to get it to try their fortunes! Even as they were jostling in the run up to what was going to be one of the all-time biggest grossers for Indian cinema, an unassuming – though very daring in its own right – attempt began in Chennai. An alternative content being developed and beamed through digital cinema system to a digital screen in Chennai! While Sathaym Cinemas – known for its daring exploits – played host to the screening, Real Image Media Technologies played central to the whole initiative, and Aghal Films took the honours of producing the content: Margazhi Raagam- a movie format of Carnatic classical music concert. Named after the Tamil month Margazhi (the Pongal festival season spanning from mid-December to midJanuary) the movie is construed to be a refreshing entertainer for the auspicious month of its name. Conceptualised and directed by Jayendra Panchapakesan, founder-director of Real Image, the a 110 minute-concert starring two of the leading Carnatic musical exponents,
TM Krishna and Bombay Jayashri, scored one too many firsts, at least for the record book notes. It is the first ever classical music concert programme shot exclusively for cinema audiences: •
Shot in 4K and post-produced entirely digitally using these 4K images as the source
Used as many as seven Red digital cinema cameras for the shoot
Live sound capture mixed in 5.1 digital surround sound on a THX certified mix stage
More, it all set to be released in Blu-ray, DVD and audio CD in six-track surround sound. Sounds bemusing? For most cinemas who were anticipating the arrival of Ghajini, it was, probably, yes. Except for Sathyam Cinemas which was anyway part of the initiative, it was difficult for the moviemakers to convince the cinema operators to screen the movie. “It was hard to get a cinema hall since operators were not willing to offer their auditoria for something they haven’t heard before,” says Srikanth Chandrasekharn, of Aghal Films, the producer of the April-June 2009
• TECHNOLOGY •
The musicians in action: Krishna and Jayashri
movie. “We had to a lot of convincing asking (them) to ‘give us just three shows,’” he recalls, “after those three shows, they themselves called us for extending the screening for more shows.” If the producers were to be believed, pitted against Ghajini, Margazhi Raagam ran to almost full house for roughly three weeks in Bengaluru (Fun Cinemas) alone- the most cosmo city in the country. “It had almost 80 per cent occupancy,” informs Srikanth. It was more or less similar demo on its homeground Chennai. Sathyam Cinemas, already known for daring exploits did it with elan and so did Adlabs in Coimbatore. A promo-less screening in Mumbai returned encouraging feedback. An ‘alternative’ business case, therefore, was already in the making- so much so that an ardent music lover from Australia who doesn’t have any connect with moviedom, turned into distributor for the movie Down Under. “My passion for Carnatic music (made it all),” says Nalini Sankar, a resident of Sydney, who took up the distribution of the movie. “I’d heard a lot about the movie and really wanted to bring it to Australia and share it with other music lovers,” she says, adding, “Margazhi Raagam adds a whole new dimension to the performance. The lighting, the clarity of sound and the crisp images bring so much depth to the kutcheri. You can literally see and feel the emotion, energy and effort of the musicians close up.”
Margazhi Raagam: The Indian ‘alternative’ experiment on show
Theatre Magic April-June
According to Nalini, taking up the cause was easy in some ways and a challenge in others. Because there had been a great response in Chennai, most people were very excited about seeing it for themselves. Having said that, there were skeptics too for whom the concept looked amusing. That the movie was very different from the usual that get screened in Australia, local distributors were less likely to take it, so Nalini had to do it independently. But the movie spoke for itself. Team Margazhi Raagam is now gearing up to release the movie in other overseas markets where it expects significant ROI (return on investment), besides releasing in Blu-ray, DVD and audio CD in six-track surround sound. So, alternative content has arrived!
How it all began It all began in the Real Image studios, if not the mental chambers of its founder-director Jayendra. “For over four years, I have been living with the idea of giving Carnatic music an evocative new appeal in terms of presentation. Finally, the technology became available to give this dream the right shape,” he says, adding, “Margazhi Raagam brings together two things that are close to my heart – music and cinema.” According to him the advent of Red cameras threw open the field of opportunities. With Red cameras, he thought he could shoot a musical concert with a very high quality video. The surround sound technology available today,
• TECHNOLOGY •
Jayendra and his team in action: trying for perfect ‘raagam’
anyway, is capable of giving directionality of sound for every artiste on stage. “It helps us know where the vocal sound is coming from, and where the sound of mrudangam, ghatam, violin, or such other instrument coming from,” he says, adding, “it will be a whole new enriching experience even for regular classical concert attendee.” (Read First Person: The Alternative Raagam) Having weaved his dream into a concept of clarity, he moved the idea with Aghal Films Srikanth, a hitherto stock broker, who lounged into making the movie though he had no connect with the trade. They interacted with T M Krishna, and Bombay Jayashri, two of the noted, contemporary classical music exponents, and simultaneously with Sathyam Cinemas. As Providence would have it, they all had a unison of thought, and the case for a historic moment in Indian cinema story was made. They did have their own set of challenges as they proceeded with what was to be the first-of-its-kind exploit in the global cinema market place- challenges relating to both technology and aesthetics. Technology- sound quality, mic placement, usage of Red cameras – nobody till then knew what kinds of issues crop up while shooting with seven Red
cameras – whether the shoots will match, the feeds would allow proper post-production etc. Since it was to be screened in a cinematic big-screen setting, the artistes were to be seen clearly, with all the nuances of facial expressions that they bring out while performing- which was why Jayendra did not want mics to shield the artistes’ visages. So, microphone placement was a critical factor. “It was pretty exciting from technology point of view,” says Jayendra. “We were also recording on stage with multiple people playing at the same time,” he recalls. “But we wanted to record on individual tracks so that we could mix them efficiently later.” There were challenges aplenty, so to say, but all addressed meticulously- thanks to the expertise and sound wizardry of Sridhar, Real Image’s trump card in musical scores. Then it was for the aesthetics, the most important visual aspect. Jayendra had onboard a dedicated lighting director and a stagecraft designer. Together they made up a team, along with other technicians and assistants who were meant to be aware of what a cinematic shooting, that too with a never-done before technology.
Team Margazhi Raagam, in full quorum on the floor
• TECHNOLOGY • A 110-minute concert, comprising some of the most popular compositions was shot digitally for a 4K resolution. It was post-produced with the same resolution and put up for presentation.
Word-of-Mouth Promo “We were a little wary about aggressive promos,” says Srikanth, “since we didn’t want the budget to overshoot.” They made a two-minute trailer put up on the Real Image’s website and simultaneously had a soft promo with the media, and select audience. By virtue of the movie’s texture, the audience had to be niche, and the word spread among them- charting a way for its box office charts in the cinematic release. Though the product won the accolades of connoisseurs, it has some tough time with the operators, and after the initial hiccups, it hit the big screens through DCI-compliant, 2K digital projection system, comprising Christie projectors and Qube Cinema digital servers.
“We are very excited about Margazhi Raagam,” said Tan Ngaronga, COO, Sathyam Cinemas. “The music and visuals are incredibly engaging, even for someone that has little knowledge of Carnatic music, and I am looking forward to seeing the entire program in Digital quality picture and sound,” he said during the screening at the cinema. “This will be a positive step forward in alternative content and Sathyam Cinemas is pleased to be involved in the launch of this film.” Thus was made the alternative content for cinemas. How about the viability? “Any innovation takes time to get along with the takers,” say Jayendra and Srikanth in unison. “We succeeded in generating interest among people,” they say, “we hope commercial success will follow.” The intent is clear. The movie’s release in overseas market, plus the Blu-ray and DVD release. We too hope for the same. For, that would what pave way for the ‘alternate’ business channels for cinemas.
From Scrips to Script Srikanth Chandrasekharan, an unassuming young businessman, is suddenly in the midst of entertainment. Just a music lover like any other music fan, as he identifies himself, Srikanth made a record of sorts. A few quick soundbits from the stock brokerturned-movie producer. When Jayendra shared the idea with me, and we both interacted with Jayashri and Krishna, what really appealed to me there was a chance to create something new, very different from the ordinary. We visited some concerts, and had a unity of thought that if we did it, we needed to do it in a much better, evocative way than the regular. And, technology is there to leverage. Since the whole idea, and the contribution it was likely to make to music, I decided to be part of the initiative. I was in pretty much in comfort with Jayendrahe has a good competent team, and the necessary infrastructural means, and more importantly he was pretty much focused on what was up to. I only had to put in some financial resources so that the intended things could go on smoothly. If we were to act with just commercials in mind, this product would never have been here. For, anything pathbreaking, one needs to be passionate and selfmotivated beyond commercial gains. If the product comes out good, it will also bring success. It may not
Theatre Magic April-June
be a mega money-spinner like a mainstream blockbuster, commercials will surely follow with good ROI. With this belief driving us forward, we began with a model of getting sponsors for the project. This is how we got Indian Overseas Bank, and Star Vijay. The movie cost us approximately Rs. 1 crore, including the publicity spending, and we are very much close to our ROI. We are banking on our international release, for obvious reasons. Once the movie is through the international circuits, we would surely have made our ROI. In addition, the DVD release of the same would be another plus. We didn’t release the DVD since we strongly felt to do theatrical release first. The hardest part was selling the concept. In Bengaluru, it was hard to get a cinema hall since the operators were not willing to offer their auditoria for something they haven’t heard before. We had to do a lot of convincing act. Overall experience is good, and reassuring. It has given us the confidence that we can do it again.
Raagam! Cinemas harnessing digital exhibition technology, and those aspiring for the high-tech format, need no longer wonder about leveraging the so-called ‘alternative content’ advantage. For, a channel of its own kind had been opened- thanks to the bold, and passionate initiative by a person who knows what technology can provide and what India can offer through technology for wider, alternative entertainment. Jayendra Panchapakesan (JP) founder-director of Chennai-based Real Image Media Technologies, earned India a page in history books by making a digital movie out of a Carnatic music concert, exclusively for cinemas. TM talks to JP, its First Person this time, to know how exactly he looks at his initiative. TM – What inspired you for this initiative? JP – I’ve long been wondering- why Indian classical music is not presented in the same format like jazz, rock, pop, or western classical, and why it is never given the visual appeal despite its depth, and ability to bring out greater
aesthetics in terms of presentation. There are two issues in this. On one hand, it has viable economics to deal with, and on the other the drive to pursue it with a sense of charting a new direction even as it contributes to promoting your culture. This urge running very high inside
me, I interacted with Bombay Jayashri on why couldn’t we create a platform that provides more enriching experience than what is provided in an orthodox production format. With the advent of digital cinema, and we, moving in the space of leveraging its benefits, I knew there was an opportunity for the musical format to become the alternative content. Jayashri has given to the idea and we set about doing it. TM – What all went into its making? JP – Just because we wanted to leverage technology we couldn’t shoot concert on film and then convert the same into digital. This is simply because film music runs out in few minutes whereas a pure classical music piece, say Carnatic music, can last as long as 45 minutes. We decided that with Red cameras we could shoot a musical concert that is very very high quality video. However, nobody till then knew what kinds of issues will be there while shooting with seven Red cameras. In fact, we did not have seven Red cameras. We had just one, Sathyam, and Bombay Jayashri had one each, and we imported four cameras specifically for this shoot. We set up a back-up facility or control room, and after shooting each song, the hard disks straight away were sent to the control room for processing before we get ready for the second shoot. We had a full technical team working on designated jobs- we had a 4K digital image technician who entirely controlled the content management and storage parts. We had a lighting director who was basically a cinematographer. One of the big challenges was monitoring the shoots of the seven Red cameras. Since we did not have monitors, we needed to set up for monitoring the cameras also in tandem with the audio consoles so that I could interact with the cameramen on what exactly I required. I didn’t want mics on the stage since they hide the artistes’ faces. The idea was to enable the audiences experience the artistry of the performers up-close, without any barrier between them and the performers so that they get to capture every nuance of the artistic expression. On
Theatre Magic April-June
the other hand, the mics are also the security covers for the artistes in that they often use the mics to their advantage to deliver a particular vocal note, or express a typical feeling. We, therefore, used very high-end clip-on microphones for the singers, and pick-up microphones for the wireless. We used hidden mics for the mrudangam to get the right tonal quality. We did test recording of the concert in the auditoirum, as if it was the original. The artistes normally sit very close to each other, but we wanted a specific distance between them so that we get the audio clarity. We arrived at a balancing position between what the artistes and the sound engineer wanted. We marked the positions and created a stage design that suited those positions. The backdrop was designed matching with the stage; and the lighting was incorporated matching the whole ambience. TM – How confident were you about the acceptability of the product? JP – We did not have any doubts about its commercial acceptability, in the sense that there is a large chunk of
regular classical music concert attendees for whom this would be a truly enhanced experience from what they would get from a conventional programme. That we chose very popular artistes, who have a wide base of music lovers individually, and have much greater appeal in combination, it had an inherent appeal to the hardcore music lovers. We also made sure that we were not straying away from tradition. The choice of the content for the entire concert was nothing unusual. So, no particular theme as such, keep it as a standard classical concert, choose compositions that have a wide, popular appeal, and then innovate within that framework to bring in the visual appeal- which meant we were trying to elevate the appeal of classical music without upsetting the traditional base. TM – What other precautions? JP – We were very clear we didn’t want to make a stage concert of the ordinary type where people combine singing with walking, dancing, chirping etc. We rather wanted to make a pure opera type concert where all the audio and visual aesthetics are weaved in by means of technology, lighting, and other stagecrafts. TM – Means you made a set, and shot, post-produced and screened digitally in the cinema halls- all done just like a movie? JP – Absolutely! The movie has several firsts to its credit. It is the first programme in the world to have been shot
using seven Red cameras. So, it was widely discussed in the Red Forums etc. That also helped our publicity. TM – How about making it known to people? JP – Initially, there was amazement among people as to what exactly was the product in the making, and how exactly was it going to be presented. That itself was a positive note in that it helped us generate curiosity among people. Once the product was ready, we made a trailer launch with a two-minute trailer. That had the audience clapping up for every bit of it. Media did give us rave reviews, contributing to increased curiosity among music and movie lovers. From then onwards, we had no looking back. TM – What benefits did you see from the initiative before, and after making the product? JP – Benefit number one could be the tremendous interest we generated among the audiences. If you look at our website where the patrons’ feedback is noted, you would notice how impressed were the audience. Most people noted they didn’t want to come out of what they felt ecstatic, serene or transcendental experience, and wanted repeated visits to the movie show. We had a flood of enquiries on when would be our next offering. TM – Looking from the perspective of alternative content for cinemas, how does this help? JP – Alternative content, by itself, is for niche audiences.
When one speaks about popular content, one has to go for mass movie only. As long as it makes commercial sense, and is able to attract the target audiences, however smaller or big it is,the effort is worthwhile. TM – How about the commercial viability? JP – Whenever an innovative thing is attempted, there are people wanting to be part of it. Indian Overseas Bank, which came forward to sponsor a part of the project, is a case in a point. One of the bank’s directors told us ‘the project was worth every rupee they spent on it.’ We invested in our services, and creative skills, and Aghal Films invested in money. We hope to recover the investment through the movie’s international release. TM – Do you intend to expand it wider platform with repeated initiatives like this?
lineages, and some of late-orchestrated musical experiments with commendable appreciation. Every worthy creation deserves to be offered a platform to make it more beneficial and enjoyable. Having said that, the idea is not just the business case- it is about creating / providing a platform for a good art form, and contributing to its cause. No denying that fusion music is a very good art form, and it does enjoy a wide audience not only in India but outside too. So, it can also become a good model of alternative content. As of now, we are all focused on exploring the opportunities for Margazhi Raagam. Once we are clear where we are heading and how, we will surely explore the other opportunities. TM – How about screening live events, and live broadcast of sports etc to cinemas using same model?
TM – How about replicating this alternative content exploit for fusion music which comparatively enjoys wider audiences?
JP – When we speak about sporting events, the only way to go is live. No one would attend a paid show for a prerecorded broadcast. However, music need not be, or may not be a live show, for a simple reason that there are certain limitations- the resolution may be low when it is being delivered live and sound may not be 5.1. Even it is a concert by a very popular b(r)and – say a show by Michael Jackon in London – it would be best enjoyed when it is edited and presented, with better clarity than broadcast live.
JP – India is such a unique country that it has innumerable musical tenets so to say- some very popular, acknowledged and deeply rooted classical traditions with puritanic
So, in my view, music concerts are best delivered postproduced and screened in cinemas, while sports have to be just live only.
JP – Now, a new business case is opened up. We would certainly want to expand the exploit, but with necessary caution- in the sense that anything that sounds repetitive might not go well with the takers. Every offering has to be different from the preceding one. Making the content unique is as important as making the technology exploit.
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