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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-32 for TM. TM is inserted between pages TW-38 and TW-39 of TW.

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SPECIAL FEATURE Multiplex Anti-Climax!?!

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INDIAPLEXING Connecting Global Cinema

Defying Recession

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TECHNOLOGY

S P E C I A L F E AT U R E

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Alternative Cinema is Here

The 2K Digital Momentum

MMindscape TM EDITORIAL

KAL KISNE DEKHA…! Indian cinema never had so apt a title to decide its fate for morrow! Even as I was keying in this, I kept wondering if there were occasions better than this in the annals of Indian cinema. Given the magnitude and the probable ramifications of the two-month tumult, it’s difficult to paint a ‘picture’ of tomorrow. I hope the movie that is ‘privileged’ to be the first to hit the cinemas doesn’t hit the box office too but who has seen tomorrow? And who knows what tomorrow has in store- which is, probably, why both the moviemaking and the movie exhibition communities have set their ‘alternative’ business plans afoot! While the movie production-and-distribution industry – which has, of late, gained corporate strength – intends to adopt the single-screens and develop them into a virtual parallel platform for multiplex industry. Though the producers may have hit upon the idea in their disgust against what they considered demanding multiplexers, the intention isn’t that bad, and in fact a welcome thought. For, it helps the the hitherto neglected brethren gain a level-playing field. TM-4

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But who has seen tomorrow? It might as well change overnight, once the foes turn friends! The exhibition community, having gained dominant ground in the industry, is also building alternative streams to safeguard its interests. They have already brought the stage plays to place, and now bringing classical operas to attract discerning audiences who otherwise would stay away from them. This is again a welcome sign. For, it contributes towards promoting varied art forms. But who has seen tomorrow? It may be disbanded at one sign of a big banner movie! Finally, the hyped up 2K digital has not lived up to the promise. But again... don’t know about tomorrow!

Bhavanashi Ramakrishna Editor, Theatre Magic


Breaking News...

Strike Ended: Plexes Back to Business The much talked and debated dispute between the multiplex operators and the producer-distributor combine has ended on what they chose to call ‘mutually-agreed’ note, ending the eight-week stand-off that apparently costed them a whopping Rs. 300 crore approx.- roughly half of which were the box office losses. By the time this piece goes to press, the multiplexes will have got abuzz with the much awaited movie releases, but with new ‘terms and conditions.’ It’s only to be seen how the new ‘agreement’ will augur for the exhibition industry. ‘The (producers-multiplexers) strike has ended’- that’s the big news in town, across the film and exhibition community corridors, and the analyst circles. Ironically though, even as the publications going to press, including Theatre Magic, were chasing the industry representatives concerned with the progression of the seemingly dragging dialogue between the moviemakers and the movie exhibitors, they couldn’t say anything decidedly before and after the ‘agreement-‘ except some forced speculation. They couldn’t say anything before because it was so stubborn as well as uncertain as to what terms either party would agree; they didn’t want to say anything after the agreement because they have been bogged down in visualizing the impact on their economy. For the record sake, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) has reached a settlement in its negotiations with the United Producers Distributors Forum (UPDF). “Both, MAI and UPDF have mutually agreed and arrived at a consensus on all the pending issues, in a manner that is satisfactory to all members of both the bodies.” Necessary agreements in this regard have been executed as well. An understanding on all issues, including a performance based revenue sharing and distribution strategy has been reached. The MAI is pleased with this settlement since it heralds the beginning of a “performance based system” – a concept that it has been advocating ever since the negotiations began. On the distribution strategy, it has been agreed that while the producers/distributors shall have the right to decide

the distribution plan for the movies they produce / distribute, multiplexes shall have ‘showcasing’ rights, i.e. the right to decide whether to play the movie or not, and on which screen, for how many shows, show timings, ticket pricing, etc. Expressing his views on the settlement, Deepak Asher, President of Multiplex Association of India, said, “we are glad to finally resolve all the issues with the United Producers Distributors Forum to our mutual satisfaction. We have been able to arrive at a consensus with UPDF, in a manner that is fair, balanced and enduring. We are delighted to let our patrons know that movies will be back in their favorite multiplexes…This indeed creates a win: win scenario for both multiplex companies and the Producers, as well as the cinegoer. This also paves the way for addressing the larger issues that face the industry – including tackling piracy, rationalizing entertainment

Flash News

‘Kal Kisne Dekha?’: Very Few The much expected new movie release after the exhibitor-producer stand-off got resolved didn’t really jerk off the box office. If the latest reports are to be believed, Kal Kisne Dekha – released on

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13 June across 510 screens worldwide, including 460 in India – failed to impress moviegoers. It had just around 25 per cent turn outs at the multiplexes.


taxes, and other such measures. The UPDF has promised support to the MAI in dealing with these issues.” It may be recalled the multiplexes had been running without new releases from April 4, following the producers’ decision not to release their movies from that date in the wake of the exhibitors’ refusal to the 50:50 per cent revenue sharing of the box office collections. The two groups have met as many as 66 times – and spent a total of Rs. 70 lakh – with regular intervals to scuttle out the dispute, but in vain. Despite the intervention of reigning Khans of Bollywood – Shah Rukh and Aamir – the dispute did not seem to be reaching its logical conclusion with the solution playing a hide and seek game. Now that the impasse is passé, the terms and conditions stand like this: • For the first week of the new release: 50:50 for producers and exhibitors • For the second week: 42.5 per cent for the producers, and 57.5 per cent for the exhibitors • For the third week: 35 per cent for the producers, and 65 per cent for the exhibitors More, if a movie collects more than Rs. 17.5 crore at the top six multiplex chains (excluding single screens and independent multiplexes), then the terms of sharing will be 52.5 per cent (for the producers) in the first week, 45 in the second, 37.5 in the third and 30 from the fourth week onwards till the life of the movie- which means the multiplex shall give 2 per

Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan got together to sort out the issue

cent extra revenue to the producers. That only nine movies have crossed that figure in 2008, it may not be a big imposter for the multiplex posters. Having said that, critics have already began reading ‘much more in between the lines’ (of the agreement). On the face of it, the agreement looks equally beneficial to both the parties, a deeper analysis would tilt the balance in favour of the producer-distributor combine, they say, adding, the multiplexers might have to put up with tougher times ahead. “It’s a settlement, in a pucca Bollywood underworld movie style,” quipped an analyst. Befittingly though, the first movie to be released after the agreement will be Vishnu Bhagnani’s Kal Kisne Dekhaan apt title to indicate the situation!


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Multiplex Money Matters The Pyramid’s Story of Antithesis Pyramid Saimira Theatre Ltd (PSTL) – the Chennai-based cinema company that surged onto the Indian cinema exhibition scenario with astonishingly high claims – is apparently on a downward spiral. Having taken one beating after the other, in cinema market as well as the stock market, the company’s fortunes have plummeted to rock-bottom at the same pace as they rose. Faced, reportedly, with a survival crisis, the company began a major restructuring exercise. A TM perspective: About two-and-half years ago when Pyramid Saimira Theatres Limited (PSTL) surged into the league of listed cinema companies in the country – riding on a new-found market enthusiasm about corporate cinema business – few would have realised (even within the company) the things that were in the offing. A flurry of ambitious announcements with realty players all around the country, and boastful acquisitions overseas have rose the stakes as also the level of scepticism. Today, it is, apparently, the latter that is all over the market. Indications from the market and the cinema pundits, infer that the company is heading to a survival crisis. In an apparent antithetical story of reversals, the company is in a storm of a sort after the deluge of deals and funds that followed its hyper-charged IPO. Taking off on a boastful plan of setting up the ‘world’s largest digital cinema network,’ with an estimated 4,000 screens, and a business of $1 billion in a span of four years, the company hit rough weather halfway through. The company not only had to close some of its cinema-associated businesses, but also had to shut down some of its screens. The downward spiral of the ‘Pyramid’ began with most of its screens returning hefty losses, forcing the company to shut them down. Roughly around a year-and-half’s time, the company had to close down most of its accessory cinema businesses that have become unviable- it stepped out of film distribution beyond South India, closed its gaming business, shelved its international forays into Europe, cut down its Malaysian and US operations et al. That the company had put its feet into too many areas at the same time – Saimira Realty, Saimira Access (IPTV), Spize TV (DTH) and Dimple Cine Advertising, Aurora Technologies (gaming) – all have taken a toll. The latest, and the biggest of all, had been the strictures from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), prohibiting group promoter P S Saminathan, and as many as 230 others from trading on the company scrip, due to an alleged activity of a fake letter and buyback offer. The allegations of forgery and misleading the regulator has resulted resulted in stepping down of the chairman. In a space of few months, the company scrip lost as much as 94 per cent of its worth, falling from a high of around Rs. 400 about two years ago, to Rs. 25 in the second week of June this year. In December 2008, the company reported a third quarter loss of over Rs. 74 crore – against a reported profit of Rs. 30 crore from the previous Q3 – which has grown to over Rs. 100 TM-10

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crore by Q4. The number of operational screens – from a high of 800-plus, against an anticipated count of over 2000 – had slumped to around 200. The company’s estimated workforce of 300 people has a question mark on their fate. In the aftermath of the market disgrace, the company founder director N Narayanan took over as chairman, and began streamlining the operations aimed at bringing down the risk levels, besides preparations for a merger with its US subsidiary Fun Asia USA. The company, however, claims that it will continue with its expansion plans in Malaysia, where it reportedly made profits. The board also approved the expansion plans of sister company Pyramid Saimira Production International and consented to a plan to bring in fresh debt and equity into that company. While the company attributes its misfortunes to the ‘global meltdown, national recession and failure in the film industry,’ the market observers think otherwise. “the global recession is not specific to one player, it’s been common for all,” said a top executive of a cinema chain. “what can be specific here, is an apparent, unscrupulous and unfounded expansion ambition.” A more moderate view of this ‘critical note,’ is that the company had gone overboard with its ambitions without realising the practicalities, and market vagaries. Moving away from the company’s core capability, and divesting the resources to too many unpromising areas has diluted the company strengths, another market analyst said, adding, that the market winds turned into gales, they swept away the company off its bottomline. According to most market analysts, Pyramid has to find a suitor immediately to stay in its structure.


Multiplexes Lose 50 Per Cent Revenue National multiplex chains have reportedly suffered 50 per cent loss in revenues during the first quarter of FY2009-10 thanks to the two-month-long strike, and IPL-II. Even as the cinema chains began recouping from the impact of the terror attacks in Mumbai, followed by threats elsewhere, the dispute over the revenue sharing with the producers-distributors combine and the 5week IPL-II cricketing frenzy rendered the box offices draw a near blankinflicting, probably, the heaviest ever dent to the cinema fortunes. The multiplex players – particularly those dependent on (new) Bollywood content – had to shut down some of its screens, they had also minimised their spending on branding and marketing initiatives, besides imposing a freeze on fresh recruitments. The first quarter of FY2010 is, therefore, a forgettable period for multiplexes.

Inox Net Down 8 Per Cent Inox Leisure Limited, one of the leading national multiplex chains in the country, had posted lower net profit for the financial year 2008-09. The company earned a net profit of Rs. 24.34 crore for the year ending 31 March 2009- 7.78 per cent down from a net of Rs. 26.39 crore during for the year ended 31 March 2008. The company’s operating profits also took a slightly downslide to Rs. 34.75 crore for the year, from Rs. 40.18 crore earned during last fiscal. However, the company’s total revenues went up by over 9 per cent- to Rs. 225.61 crore for the full year from Rs. 206.24 crore earned during last financial year. Due to the lower earnings, the Earnings Per Share (EPS) of the ILL scrip stood at Rs. 3.96 as against last year’s EPS of Rs. 4.30. The lower profits have mainly been attributed to weaker content pipeline during the year, as against comparatively better moviefare during 2007-08. However, the company increased its footprint in the country from 76 screens from 22 locations to 91 screens from 26 locations during the year. The new properties include Inox-Faridabad, Mathura Road, Inox-Nagpur, Inox-Jayanagar, Bengaluru, and Inox-Burdwan, West Bengal. As a result, the footfalls have registered a growth of 4.31 per cent – considered below average – rising from 1,25,36,148 to 1,20,77,495. The company launched a six-screen multiplex in Hyderabad in May this year, taking the total screen tally to 97 from 27 locations.

The first season of IPL had hit the cinemas very hard during the first quarter of FY2009, followed by terror attacks and security issues during the third quarter that kept occupancies rather low. Weakening consumer spends due to economic slowdown, examinations season and a weak movie pipeline only aggravated their woes and ensured another poor quarter in Q4 FY2009 with occupancies reaching as low as 15 per cent. As a result, most multiplex companies registered a significant drop in their revenue earnings. However, over the last one month, multiplex stocks have witnessed sharp rally in the range of 35-50 per cent despite looming concerns including lower occupancies and possible delays in handover of properties. The Q2 of the year looks a little promising due to the fact that the cinemas are back to business following the call-off of the strike, and no cricketing threats to their box office. July-September 2009

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Cinemax Buoyant, Despite Lower Profits

Indian M&E Worth Rs One Trillion

Buoyed by a profitable performance for the financial year 2008-09, and ambitious projections – amidst market chaos of revenue sharing turmoil and IPL dent – Mumbai-based multiplex chain Cinemax has drawn up an ambitious expansion plan to quadruple its screens in the coming years. In what is being looked at as a disbelieving factor, in the wake of the issues that had tormented the industry, the company intends to add at least 300 more screens across India to its current total of 74 screens from 25 locations, with most of them being from Mumbai circuit. The company has posted a net profit of Rs 11 crore at the end of the financial year 08-09. This is, however, 19.52 per cent lower as compared to Rs 13.73 crore net profit achieved in the previous fiscal. For the quarter ended 31 March 2009, the company posted a net profit of Rs 98 lakh, which is almost 55 per cent down from Rs 2.21 crore in the previous year’s corresponding quarter. Revenue was up 35 per cent to Rs 33.42 crore during the quarter as compared to Rs 24.77 crore in the previous year. The company earned revenues of Rs 34.12 crore from theatrical exhibition and entertainment in the fourth quarter of FY2009, as compared to Rs 22.98 crore a year ago. However, it posted an operating loss of Rs 3.71 crore from this segment in the quarter, besides a loss of Rs 1.52 crore in distribution and production segment during the quarter. ”The company is pleased by the results and sees tremendous growth opportunities in the coming fiscal as the industry movements are in our favour,” said Cinemax CFO Jeetendra Mehta. “In spite of depression and tough times, we have done well and are able to offer dividends to our shareholders,” he added. The company has utilized the entire proceeds of the Initial Public Offering for the purposes stated in the offer document, prior to 30 September 2008. The board of directors has recommended a final dividend of Rs 1.20 per share subject to the approval of shareholders in the ensuing annual general meeting.

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The Indian media and entertainment industry’s turnover is expected to exceed Rs one trillion (Rs one lakh crore) by 2011-12 according to a recent report by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of india (ASSOCHAM). The report titled ‘India’s Digital Revolution Impact on Film & Television Sector’ says that this quantum jump would be made due to the increasing consumerism and technological improvement. However, the television industry revenues comprising subscription and advertising is projected to more than double up to over Rs 520 billion in next three years from the present Rs 200 billion. Subscription revenue is projected to be the growth driver for the TV industry with pay TV homes slated to increase from the current 72 million count to over 100 million by 2011-12. According to the ASSOCHAM report, the next three years will also witness an increasing conversion of various media, films, music and home media, satellite TV, radio, entertainment, animation and gaming. The confluence of factor is also procuring conversion into the mainstream from digitization of content to pervasive broadband access and lower cost. “Higher performance technology, which is unleashing a wave of creative potential across the world and media content, needs big change,” Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat was quoted as saying. According to the report, direct-to-home (DTH) service is likely to emerge as the frontrunner amongst various pay TV technologies and will lead the digitization of television in India. At present, there are over 400 channels in all and the number is expected to exceed 500 by the end of 2009. While the government collects over Rs 15 billion as entertainment tax from consumers, the amount is slated to go up substantially with the rise in the number of channels. The report also says that while television holds the larger part of viewership base, digital cinema has been significantly transforming the exhibition landscape. According to the report, the regional cinema is also contributing significantly to the M&E industry. Of the estimated 13,000 theatres in the country, as many as 7,000 are in the four states of South India. Every year, approximately 1000 movies are being produced in India out of which over 100 movies are contributed by Telugu film industry, followed by around 65 movies from Tamil film industry.


• TECHNOLOGY •

India Tech

Connecting Global Cinema Indian cinema exhibition prowess is touching global frontiers. Even as the advanced West – with all its communication sophistication – continues to explore ways and means to networking intercontinental cinematic nodes, Indian cinema has done it. It may well have touched more global shores too, by the time this piece is published. While Indian movies have already made a strong base of global audiences, now it’s the technology that is connecting them, digitally. Creditably, this is being achieved by the same player which had actually ushered India onto the digital horizons. A TM perspective: Sometime in midsummer of 2003... Indian cinema exhibition broke new ground, in technology sphere, with two cinemas in remote rural landscape doing a digital (electronic) exhibition of movies. Adlabs (Mukta) Digital took the honours, and later the onus, of initiating India into digital exhibition domain. (Read ‘Digital Cinema has Arrived:’ TW June 2003)

The earliest digital cinemas, referred to as E-Cinema

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• TECHNOLOGY • 25 July 2008...

25 December 2008...

History was re-made by the same company in a far bigger and mature fashion, and in a demanding movie centre Ahmedabad, in the globally acknowledged model – the 2K digital – over what could be argued as the most sophisticated, sure-fire futuristic network in the worldthe fibre optic cabling. (Read ‘(Re-)Birth of Digital India:’ TW December 2008)

Exactly, five months later, the Christmas Day had been turned into a bigger ‘intercontinental entertainer,’ with the biggest Indian blockbuster ever Ghajini delivered digitally over fibre optic network from Mumbai to New York, en route to cinemas in New Jersey and California, i.e. either side of the US. A first ever such feat in the world! The movie, processed in Mumbai, was first transmitted to Reliance Communication Inc.’s network operation centre in New York. From there it was sent to cinemas in New Jersey and California. Fibre-distributed movie, per se, is not new- with the format having been premiered way back in 2000 itself by Qwest Communications, Cisco, and 20th Century Fox in the US, and again in 2005 for a handful of movies by NTT West, Warner Bros., Paramount and Sony Pictures in Japan. However, none of these experiments resulted in any assured and secure networked distribution model for digital cinema. That is, of course, apparently achieved now, by Adlabs Digital, that is supported by Reliance Globalcom, the global communication business arm of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG). Today, about six months after the techno-historic day in global cinema, the company is poised to transmit digital movies through its intercontinental submarine fibre optic cabling network to cinemas at multiple destinations overseas. Given from where and how it started, and the reach it is seeking to scale, the achievement is not only phenomenal but also can potentially change the way movies are shown on either side of the world. The entertainment giant’s privately owned global fibreoptic network is enabling Adlabs Films to channelise its content more efficiently, dramatically reducing delivery times by 50-90 per cent while securing the encrypted content during the transport process. The initial plans are to expand to as many as 166 digital screens in the US in the coming months. ”Reliance Globalcom’s global network acts as an international digital artery that allows Adlabs to offer

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• TECHNOLOGY •

content and media services globally,” says Adlabs Films CEO Anil Arjun. “With Reliance Globalcom’s extensive fibre assets, multi-metro connectivity and service assurance, we have the ability to serve the industry by moving movie and media assets quickly and securely anywhere in the world,” he added. According to the Adlabs chief, this means more movies and even High Definition content like broadcasts of national, international sporting events and ceremonies can reach the big screen faster, more efficiently and to more locations around the world.” Adlabs had actually followed up the Ghajini fibredistribution, with Luck by Chance and Delhi 6. The movies were all mastered in the DCI-approved 2K format in Mumbai at the Adlabs Digital Cinema facility, and sent over OFC to New York and screened in BIG Cinemas (the cinema concern of ADAG) digital cinemas in New Jersey and California. In comparison to the industry’s traditional method for delivering digitized movies i.e. physical shipment via a courier system, Adlabs’ distribution through fibre network is claimed to bring multiple benefits to solution providers as well as end users (cinemas).

That Reliance Globalcom network touches markets across the US, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific regions, the fibre-distribution of movies looks set for a big business chunk out of the global fare. “Reliance Globalcom’s network infrastructure is ideal for Hollywood studios, production houses, effects companies and broadcasters,” Reliance Globalcom president Americas region Ted Raffetto says, “particularly the companies that require a high-speed network with the security and availability to move files that are often as large as 2-3 terabytes in full-resolution mode.” That the company is also moving upwards to 4K mastering with state-of-the-art technology, the initiative should position it on a higher platter than any other player in the market place. With a view to augmenting its new Digital Intermediate workflow at its post-production facility, Adlabs recently made a major investment in state-of-the-art 4K film scanning, colour grading and management technology from FilmLight of the UK. The key elements in the package include a Northlight 2 4K pin registered film scanner, five Baselight colour grading systems and facility- wide Truelight colour management. Adlabs expects to master, on average, three to four movies per week for digital release while achieving the highest possible standards of quality. (Read separate box: ‘Adlabs Augmenting 4K Capability’) A technically superior entertainment multinational from India ?

Advantage Fibre Network •

Time-to-market / time-to-revenue: Transport time to a digital cinema is reduced by as much as 1.5 days for a full-length feature movie

Content Security: the fibre network reduces the opportunity for piracy. Physical shipments that pass through multiple middlemen during the transport process is susceptible to duplication or theft. Reliance Globalcom's network supports technologies for digital encryption and content protection

Massive bandwidth allocations: Reliance Globalcom's network provides the capacity to support the transport of large volumes of content simultaneously, including files as large as 2-3 terabytes, in full-resolution mode

Simplified transport logistics: Transferring content over OFC eliminates all types of transport and shipping intermediaries, as well as delays incurred by weather, customs agencies, couriers and airline carriers

Programming flexibility: Adlabs can synchronize US release with a movie's Indian release date and time to capitalise on homeland publicity campaigns and audience buzz.

Multi-lingual distribution: The company can also simultaneously release digital films in multiple regional languages, thereby catering to Indian audiences abroad

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• TECHNOLOGY •

Global Network Coverage. Courtesy: Reliance Globalcom

Adlabs Augmenting 4K Capability Adlabs Digital recently made a major investment in state-of-the-art 4K film scanning, colour grading and colour management technology from the London-based FilmLight. The key elements in the package include a Northlight 2 4K pin registered film scanner, five Baselight colour grading systems and facility-wide Truelight colour management. The company plans to employ the systems in a new Digital Intermediate workflow at its post-production facility in Mumbai and expects to master three to four movies per week for digital distribution while achieving the highest possible standards of quality. “Adlabs is proud to launch what is the most powerful DI facility in India and one of the most sophisticated in the world,” said Nishit Shetty, head of operations, Adlabs Digital Laboratory. “This resource will allow us to set a new standard for quality in India and keep pace with the rapid growth of the film market in India and South Asia.” FilmLight’s Baselight EIGHT became the obvious choice for grading due to its seamless integration with the Northlight scanner and ability to grade multiple 4K streams in real-time. “We evaluated many possible solutions and found that nothing compared with the Baselight|Northlight combination,” said Ken Metzker, senior colourist, Adlabs Digital Laboratory. “The performance and creative toolset of the Baselight enables us to work with 4K media without proxy and perform the most complex grades.” Adlabs, which provides processing services through its film laboratory for nearly 70 percent of all films

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produced in India, set out to build a native 4K DI workflow capable of meeting its current and future needs for productivity and quality. The quality and consistency offered by the pin-registered Northlight 2 was deemed essential for achieving quality standards required for digital cinema projection. In addition to Northlight 2 and the two Baselight EIGHTs, Adlabs has deployed three Baselight Assist systems for use in conforming 4k material as well as quality control. The conform capabilities of Baselight allow the conformist to implement a last minute EDL, changing the edit, while retaining the grading work already completed. Adlabs has implemented FilmLight’s Truelight colour management system facility wide, including the new Truelight Projector Probe and several Truelight boxes for calibration of third party devices. Truelight is integrated into each of the Baselight systems and provides a precise match between the image displayed on the Christie digital projectors in the DI grading theatres and the film prints produced on site and projected in Adlabs’ film screening theatre. Truelight will be used to produce color calibrated DCI masters and HDTV deliverables from the same digital film master files. To handle the DI workflow’s media storage requirements, Adlabs has purchased a DVS-SAN. The Baselight EIGHTs connect directly to the DVS-SAN, which features 350 TB of storage, enough to accommodate several films simultaneously.


• TECHNOLOGY • Hollywood Endorses Scrabble

The 2K Digital Momentum Indian cinema’s DCI-compliant 2K digital transition received a big booster recently with the Hollywood majors endorsing the 2K roll out initiative being taken up by Scrabble Entertainment. That as many as four studios have already signed on the Mumbai-headquartered system installer-facilitator, and the fifth is being finalized, the 2K digital expansion was to be on truly on a roll, but for the two-month black out of multiplexes. However, now that the spat is past, the roll out is expected to gain momentum. TM presents an account. Scrabble Entertainment, India’s only DCI-compliant 2K systems deploying entity broke new ground recently when it won endorsement for its model from as many as four Hollywood studios. Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros, Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Pictures have signed a contract with Mumbai-based system installer to deploy up to 2,000 digital cinema screens in India. In fact, Scrabble is currently finalizing a contract with Universal Pictures towards further augmenting the roll out plans. The initial plans of the initiative – that began around the same time an year ago with Scrabble and Christie coming together, and Doremi Cinema playing a supportive role – was to deploy an estimated 1,750 to 2,000 2K systems in about five years time with about 350-400 installs every year.(Read Theatre World, April-June 2008)

Some 10 months after embarking on the mission, the current install count stand at 98. This, however, has had its own set of factors. Scrabble is now aiming to roll out about 500 systems over the next three years, at over 100 multiplexes in eight major cities in the country. (Read separate box: Velocity Turned Momentum) With the new multiplexes being built in India over the last three to four years, there is an opportunity for Hollywood studios to increase their product volume of 2D and 3D movies and overall presence in India. Converting conventional 35mm film projectors to digital projection systems is widely considered to facilitate increased efficiency and lower distribution costs thereby providing the opportunity to significantly increase both the number of movies released and the breadth of each release within India.


• TECHNOLOGY • Indian multiplex chains PVR Cinemas, Fame Cinemas, Inox Leisure, Fun Cinemas, and Cinemax have signed up with Scrabble for the installation of the 2K digital systems. The deployment agreements with Hollywood studios are based upon the VPF model, essentially a pay-per-use or booking model. Hollywood studios will get an opportunity to have wider day and date releases in India at lower costs and the digital platform will allow the studios to showcase their 3D titles. The studios can additionally use this platform for playing alternate content. Currently, multiplexes in the top eight cities of India collect over 75 per cent of the total Indian box-office collection, whereas Hollywood contributes less than 10 per cent of that collection. Till now, it had limited access to the vast distribution infrastructure in India. The studio executives,

however, see India as huge market for English movies, which will enable them to release more movies day and date in India. Post digital roll out, the box office collections from both Hollywood and Bollywood, besides the Indian language movies are expected to boost up significantly since the model also hopes to seal the threat of piracy. Says Ranjit Thakur, CEO of Scrabble Entertainment: “the ultimate beneficiary of our Hollywood alliances will be the Indian movie audience. India will finally see more Hollywood day and date releases, generally wider releases and most importantly all the awesome 3D content, which would not be possible without the Scrabble digital platform. Our vision is to convert every multiplex in India with a potential to screen Hollywood content to DCIcompliant 2 K or 4 K Systems.”

An Action with Clear Specs In simple physics, the term speed is referred to as the rapidity of an action, while velocity is the same but in a designated direction. Momentum also connotes the same but with specific amount of force, i.e. a rapid action with specs of direction and force. The Scrabble Entertainment’s 2k digital roll-out initiative can be likened to these phenomena- from where it started, progressed, and where it intends to go now. Excerpts with Ranjit Thakur, CEO of Scrabble. On where it stands today... We are much more evolved, and have better clarity now. We have a total of 98 installs now, and have agreements with most Hollywood studios in place. This gives us clarity of direction and momentum where and how we need to go, in terms of installs and ensuring the content supply. We aim to get around 500 in the three years’ time. On impact of the slow down... The impact, if it is perceived to be one, was due to the shortage of content supply. Most exhibitors had been hounding us only on the content. There are actually two things- one, the cinema operators’ getting wary about the capex on digital equipment for their running facilities with a straight question: why should they re-invest, that too on higher scale for a facility which had been running fine with the existing format? The other is though they are forthcoming for 2k digital for their future ventures, what is the guarantee of content, and more importantly the value addition? On the 3D value addition... The exhibitors evaluate how much value a particular exhibition format will bring to them. That they see some extra value coming from the 3D digital, they are willing to pay that extra amount. We are trying to put one 3D digital in every multiplex. For example, for Ice Age-3 – slated for 3 July release in 3D digital – we have signed a total of 20 3D digital installs to be in time for the movie’s global release. Hollywood already announced around 12 titles in 3D Digital for the next few months, i.e. almost one 3D digital release every month. We already have Bolt, Up, Ice Age-3, and two more before Avtaar, slated for the year end. All this is being looked at with high optimism. On the impact of multiplex black out... Multiplexes have been virtually out of business for over two TM-18

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months. Their inflows have been just nil, forcing them to hold onto their investments. This exerted high pressure on us as it turned into overheads. All the players involved in the game, producers, distributors, exhibitors, equipment vendors and installers like us, and even accessory businesses, have lost their operating revenues. I don’t think this can be recovered ever. With no exhibitor wanting to install costly 2K systems during the strike period, our deployment model got deferred, but is still in tact. The operators have not backed out, but deferred. So pressure is there, but the spirit is also high. On benefit from Hollywood deals... It would give us extra revenue. Based on the number of titles released from Hollywood, we would get as much extra revenue which we did not have earlier. On the delivery model... We are also seriously exploring the fibre-optic channels. The two companies currently involved in with the fibreoptic network in India – R-Com and Bharti Aitel – are being approached for this. We are talking to them independently, but strictly on pay-per-delivery basis. The toughest part, however, is high costs of the last mile access connectivity. On seeking overseas fortunes... We are seriously exploring these opportunities as well. We have actually been approached by one of the major players in Asia, to do the 2K roll out in their market as we are doing in India. However, it is a little premature to talk about that in detail. The next few months should give us better clarity on this. In fact, when some players have approached Hollywood for the roll out, they were advised to work with Scrabble and come under the network, since they did not have justifiable numbers on their own. So, we have a great momentum.


• SPECIAL FEATURE •

Multiplex Anti-Climax!?! The ‘cinematic’ strike is over, and both the moviemakers as well as the movie exhibitors are back to showbiz. The movielovers can again begin to revel in the new movie funtainment. But, is it any different from what it was before the two-month-spat? Or is it going to be different in the months to come? Most likely yes, say the indicators. In what is being widely considered as a typical Bollywood ‘settlement’ moviefare, the multiplex story appears to have ended in an anti-climax! A TM perspective: When the multiplex operators have refused to give in to the 50:50 revenue sharing demand of the producers, everyone with a little knowledge of the business thought the multiplexers were flexing their muscles against a commandeering producer-distributor combine. Exactly two months later – from the date of the stand-off – on June 5, while the information channels in the country gone abuzz about the call-off of the strike, the industry circles, as well as those with a nose for the moviebiz have gone agog about the much hyped terms and conditions (TC) of the call-off. To put it in a nutshell, the TC of the what they claimed a mutually agreed settlement, will have 50:50 ratio of revenue sharing for the first week, followed by 42.5: 57.5 for the second, and 35:65 for the third week between the producers and the exhibitors. If any movie grosses more than Rs. 17.5 crore at the six national multiplex box offices, the producer share will go up by 2 per cent. On the face of it, there appears an edge to two for the exhibitors. That they got their strongest demand ‘performance-linked-payout model to place, they will pay extra 2 per cent share to the movies performing well at the box office, and that they will have the ‘showcasing rights’- which means they can structure the mode and number of shows of the movie chosen. But here comes the “stop, take a serious, second look at it,” caution from the industry observers. They suggest reading ‘between the lines’ of the latest agreement visà-vis the hitherto existing scenario. For those of the newlyinitiated cinema enthusiasts, the revenue sharing practice till now had been on case-to-case basis depending upon the banner and starcast. It ranged at 48 per cent for the first week and 36 per cent for the second week and so on (Read ‘Link Performance to Revenue Sharing’: Theatre Magic, June 2009 issue). Compared against this, the current model is a straight and flat jump of 2 per cent for the first week and 6 per cent for the second week. More, if the movie fared better (above Rs. 17.5 crore at six

multiplexes), the cinema operator has to share 2 per cent extra to the producer under the ‘performance-based system.’ This is over and above what the producers have been demanding for the first week. If analysed critically, these two points of the TC are potent enough to bring down the fortunes that multiplexes had been making all along, and also bring most growth dreams to ground. For the simple fact that the multiplex operators hardly get a movie that runs beyond the third week and give a higher share of 65 per cent et al. Consider this: •

Most movies end their life in two weeks which means the lion-share will have gone to the producerdistributor coffers

The operator’s wanting to run a movie into third and fourth week can well mean an exceeding performance by the movie, attracting extra 2 per cent share, over and above the first week’s share to the producers

No operator would want to run a poor turnout movie beyond second week, just with an eye on the larger share- which means the operator has to continually chase new releases for higher revenue stakes, and part with higher shares to the producers

Given the multiple number of screens, the operators cannot run them with old movies, just to keep them running- which is not a business case at all

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• SPECIAL FEATURE • Whose Loss, Whose Gain? No sport this, though it does seem to be a cleverly executed game, and taming of a player or two. However, it may be equally intriguing to ponder over who is the loser or winner of this eight-week tussle that turned to be more of an ego-dominated than of reality issue. The producers will surely turn richer at the outset, and, apparently, it’s a case of diluting the very base of the multiplexers’ financial model, and this dilution may as well bring down the business edifices that the operators had been ambitiously creating. “It actually does,” says a top executive of a multiplex operator who had been party to the whole episode. “This will hit our bottomlines straight,” the executive said, adding, “it can throw our investment strategies haywire because inflows are inflicted, and this will dampen our expansion plans, as would be the case with any other operator.” Compounding the reduction in box office share will be the tax regime, with a significant number of screens getting out of the tax-holiday protection. So, it may well be a case

of reversal for the multiplex industry growth projections, if not the prospects. However, it may also be the loss for moviemaking industry in the long run, point out another multiplex executive. Since the newly agreed model would hit their collections hard, it may impact their expansion plans resulting in a drastic decline of the number of required screens in the country. As it is, the exhibition industry, in comparison with advanced markets, is heavily under-screened, and given the latest impact, it may further dampen the building of new screens which means the moviemakers would soon find it difficult to get a cinema to screen their movie. There have been umpteen number of instances where ‘genre’ movies had been lying in cans – shorn of theatres – and saw the light of the screen only with the multiplexes coming to their rescue. The new agreement may put paid to the fate of these movies which is everybody’s loss, say analysts. On the tangent, since the operators got the “showcasing rights” to the movies they get, they can ‘structure’ the movie in a ‘cartel-association’ with other participant operators to decide the fate of the movie. This, though can be at their own peril, is still possible.

The Script of the Anti-Climax May 27, 2009 evening, Hotel Lands End, BandraMumbai: Members of the United Producers and Distributors Forum (UPDF) – comprising Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Ronnie Screwvalla, Yash Chopra, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Sunil Lulla on one side – and Reliance Entertainment Chairman Amit Khanna on the other, representing the Multiplex Association of India (MAI). The meeting went on hours together with intense discussions about who should get what. Outcome, though inferred, not made public, due to lack of clarity. June 4, 2009, 5 p.m. Yashraj Studios-Mumbai: The latest, rather last bout of discussions between the representatives of UPDF and the MAI begin at Yashraj Studios at around 5 pm. The UPDF had its strongmen Yash Chopra, Jyoti Deshpande of Eros, Mukesh Bhatt of Vishesh Films, Siddharth Roy Kapur from UTV and Studio 18’s Indian Films, among others while the MAI had the heads of the frontline multiplex chains- Amit Khanna on behalf of Big Cinemas, Shravan Shroff of Fame Cinemas, Ajjay Bijli of PVR Cinemas, Alok Tandon of Inox, Atul Goel of Fun Cinemas, and Rashesh Kanakia of Cinemax. *Befitting a perfect Bollywood script, the repeated rounds of meetings in the Yashraj Studios conference room were full of drama, walkouts, stand-offs and even temper tantrums. The intensity reached its crescendo with all but Big Cinemas’ Amit Khanna walking out of the discussions to settle in Uday Chopra’s office, for the time being. Hours passed by into late night, but no solution in the vicinityeven as the Reliance Entertainment chief continued his reconciliation efforts, in vain.

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*Supposedly vexed, or mindful of his company’s movie production interests, Amit Khanna went ahead and unilaterally signed the agreement with the producers. Rejoice in the UPDF camp as the charged up reps kept on updating Shah Rukh Khan in San Francisco, and Aamir Khan in Mumbai over telephones, besides taking a tip or two from the Khan-duo. *June 5 2009 (early hours): Aditya Chopra reportedly delivers the knock-out punch. Tells the MAI reps that if it was not then, it could never be- if they did not sign the deal then, they might face stiffer terms from the producers, and it might well be too late for the exhibitors when they reconcile later. * Ajjay Bijli of PVR Cinemas, keeping in view the Group’s relations with Aamir Khan, readies to sign up, and the fissures have already become clear in the MAI camp. * The remaining multiplexers have little to fight about. They agree to sign up. In the few subsequent minutes/hours, they are done. * A total of 66 rounds of discussions, an expenditure of roughly Rs. 70 lakh, and a lot more egos, emotions and sentiments, and, of course, interests- all have come to a logical conclusion, tipped to be win:win proposition. * Tailpiece: The first movie to be released after the agreement Kal Kisne Dekha is a Big Pictures production under Reliance Entertainment.


• SPECIAL FEATURE •

Producers Decide to Upgrade Single-Screens Seemingly vexed with what it felt stubborn attitude by the multiplex operators, the producer community has even decided to take charge of single-screens in the country and upgrade to multiplex level and release movies. In what looked like posing an open challenge to the multiplexers, the producers seriously contemplated – in one of their meetings recently – undertaking of one screen each by a producer and a corporate member of the community, and upgrade it to successfully release new movies. According to industry sources, the producers mulled over the point at length why they had to talk so much to multiplexes, and why couldn’t they release their movies to single-screens. The readymade answer was that their age-old, traditional brethren were not so sophisticated as the multiplexes to draw more and richer audiences. When it was brought to their attention that most of the single-screens were in dilapidated condition, the producers instantly came up with the idea of “developing” them to match multiplexes. If the market sources are to be believed, an exclusive team proposed by the producers is now exploring the possibilities of producers and corporates taking over single screen cinemas and set up for upgradation. The team is learned to be preparing a list of single-screens

from all over the country. What’s more, the Khan-duo who have been standing strongly in support of the producers, have reportedly volunteered financially help for the upgradation of single-screen cinemas in potential locations. The mood among the producers was such that their equation with the multiplexes can get back to square one, even after a legalised settlement, therefore, having an alternative platform in place would keep them in better steed, particularly in times of crises.


• SPECIAL FEATURE • The Other Side The main contention of the producers was that Indian exhibitors – in comparison with their counterparts elsewhere in the world – have not been fair in their sharing. According to them, the revenue sharing model in the UK and UAE has been 50:50 while the same in North America is 50:40 in favour of the moviemakers. This is not the case in India. Moreover, multiplexes in the country earn as much as 25 per cent of their revenues from food and beverage sales, besides about 15 per cent from parking spaces and around 8-10 per cent from commercials- all of which go straight into the operators’ coffers. Moviemakers and distributors have no role to play here. While the multiplexers link these earnings to their return on investment and providing better amenities to the patrons, producers maintained their demand has been in tune with their judicious return on investment.

The tussle actually began in November 2006 with Yashraj Productions demanding higher share for its Diwali release Dhoom-2. Since it won the case in the first instance, it became a practice for the production company which it did with its subsequent releases which reached its high with Fanaah. There were again instances of Lage Raho Munna Bhai, followed by Taare Zameen Par that saw the multiplexes flexing their muscle with the producers. Having fought the battle for over two-and-half years with rueful compromises from either side, the two ends of the entertainment spectrum locked horns for a final bout- which has been apparently won by the first movers- the producers. Though it is made out to be a win:win proposition, it is to be seen how winning combination this can turn out to be. As of now, it is an apparent case of anti-climax to the multiplex story.

PM Briefed on Multiplex Row The producer-distributor combine did not leave any stone unturned towards their agreement with the multiplexers. According to media reports, noted producers Mukesh Bhatt and Subhash Ghai, aided by Manmohan Shetty, chief of erstwhile Adlabs, and Ratan Jain met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a halfan-hour interaction at the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai – when the latter was on a short visit to the metropolis during the pre-Election days – to brief him about the whole controversy.

Besides giving an insight into what is what of the industry, the delegation sought the government to intervene and help restoration of the movie business. Though Dr. Singh assured them in the positive, he was reportedly wary about the impending new government at the Centre.

Percept Threatens to Pre-empt Producers It was not just for the multiplex camp to develop cracks before the whip. Even the producers combine too had its share of breakaways. Percept Picture Company broke away from the rest of the producers and acceded to the demands of the multiplexes. The company signed its entire line up of movies for the year 2009- which was why the movie 8x10 Tasveer could be released in the multiplexes on 3 April, just a day before the producers declared black out. Having seen the sufferings of Eros and its movie Aa Dekhen Zara, Percept did not want to go through the same trouble, say sources, which was exactly why it signed its entire movie line up for the year that comprised Tasveer, Bum Bum Bole, Yeh Hosla, Raat Gayi Baat Gayi and Aashayein. The company, which had already been facing challenging times of business, did not want to aggravate its troubles, they say.

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Tasveer was reportedly signed on a ratio of 48:52 per cent, followed by 38:62 per cent for the first two weeks for producers and multiplexers respectively. Rest of the movies in the pipeline had been signed up for 45:55 per cent and 35:65 per cent revenue sharing for the first and second week respectively.


• SPECIAL FEATURE •

Alternative Cinema is Here Say it is a cinematic effort to ride over the recession blues and / or embroilment with the moviemaking community, or to bring enriching blend of movies and art forms of global appeal to otherwise missing Indian discerning palate, or simply to create a commercial mix of content- Indian cinema is turning creative, if not evolving a level or two. While it has already become a ‘stage’ for plays, it is now evolving to screen operas, and is all set to showcase sop operas too. Enjoy the ensuing entertainment of a different genre altogether. Operas Shown on ‘BIG’ Screens Come June 20, and the culture lovers as well as moviegoers in India will soon be treated to an altogether different entertainment fare that combines the consummate artistic pleasures with cinematic thrills. Charting new ways of exhibition, with a view to developing wider, discerning audience base by churning out alternative content, India’s largest multiplex chain Big Cinemas is bringing the classic Italian operas to its patrons in select cities of its presence. In association with London-based More2Screen – a leading specialist in arts-based alternative content programming for cinemas – the multiplex chain is bringing celebrated operas to Indian cinema audiences. Starting third week of June, this new ‘genre’ of entertainment is being set to enthral movie audiences every weekend for about a month.

The first offerings of this partnership will be two high quality productions from England’s internationallyrenowned Glyndebourne Festival of the operas La Cenerentola (Cinderella) and Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar), and an all-star tribute concert from Petra, Jordan, The Pavarotti Tribute Concert, honouring the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti and featuring his former singing partners Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras, along with Andrea Bocelli and Sting. All the operas are recorded live in High Definition with Dolby Digital sound system while being performed in Italian opera houses, and the screenings of these operas, to be presented in Italian with English subtitles are expected to pave way for a new era of top class prerecorded and live performances to be enjoyed on the big screen through digital exhibition technology. The screenings are being planned for BIG Cinemas’ locations in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, and Pune where the company believes a market of discerning audiences exists, and is looking to devote the prime evening Saturday slot – from 8 pm-9 pm – to the first showing, and an early evening Sunday slot – from 6 pm-7 pm – to the second show in all locations. The schedule of the screenings is • First screening weekend - 20/21 June (Cesare) • Second screening weekend - 4/5 July (Cenerentola) • Third screening weekend - 18/19 July (Pavarotti) La Cenerentola: Based on the classic story of Cinderella, Rossini’s much-loved comic opera La Cenerentola is no fairy tale. Glyndebourne’s Music Director Vladimir Jurowski and Sir Peter Hall unite in this timelessly elegant production of this social comedy where love triumphs over malice and horrible distortions of class. Giulio Cesare: One of Handel’s grandest and most lavishly scored works, this critically acclaimed Glyndebourne production won the 2006 South Bank Show Award for Best Opera. Giulio

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• SPECIAL FEATURE • Cesare is a study of political manoeuvring as the imperialistic nobility of Caesar’s Romans meets the passionate and cunning world of Cleopatra’s Egypt. Handel’s work is part historical drama, part comedy and part love story and charts the progress of Cleopatra’s all-consuming love for Caesar. Handel creates a succession of exquisite arias, which beautifully reflect the depth and variety of emotions experienced by each character. Salute Petra- a tribute to Pavarotti: Shot in High Definition on one amazing weekend in World Heritage site Petra in Jordan, Salute Petra is a wonderful tribute concert to the late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. It was performed in front of an exclusive audience of royalty, classical and popular music stars at Petra. Against a breathtaking natural amphitheatre, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras sang together for the first time since Pavarotti’s death heralded the end of the Three Tenors. Andrea Boccelli performed from Tosca, and was joined by others to sing from Puccini’s La Boheme; whilst Sting performed La Ci Darem from Don Giovanni with opera star Angela Gheorghiu. Other performers included Andrea Griminelli, Zucchero, Jovanotti and Laura Pausini all supported by the Prague Philharmonia Orchestra.

According to Tushar Dhingra, COO of BIG Cinemas, global awareness among Indian audiences has made them desirous for distinct international experiences. “By screening opera at BIG Cinemas, we are not just providing an enriching cultural experience to our guests but also giving them a chance to enjoy the opera in the best seats and at a very affordable price,” says the COO. “We’re thrilled to be working with BIG Cinemas and to be bringing such a world-class portfolio of cultural programming to cinemas in India for the very first time,” says More2Screen’s co-founder Christine Costello. “Indian opera and classical music fans can now enjoy the finest performances as theatre-style entertainment at their local cinema.” More2Screen is the leading independent provider of alternative content programming to digitally equipped cinemas and at big screen venues worldwide. Programmes include pre recorded and live concerts, music documentaries, sporting events and educational features. Christine Costello, a former CEO of Pearl & Dean cinema advertising, in association with another co-founder Penny Nagle, the former MD of igig.tv, had been working over the last eight years in the area of alternative content for cinemas in the UK and Europe. Their work is also credited with the first-ever live High Definition broadcast of a music concert in Europe, the Robbie Williams Live in Berlin. They are the worldwide theatrical distribution partner for the world renowned Glyndebourne Festival, the spectacular Pavarotti Tribute concert and many other music and entertainment programmes for digital cinema.

It’s Sop Operas In Cinemas Now Cricket matches, soccer thrills, plays aside, it’s now sop operas of small screen exploding on to the big screen. Indian cinema would soon see the entertainment of television serial fare churned on their big screen auditoria. Veteran actor Pankaj Kapur is busy shooting for his popular satire Office Office – apparently for the big screen release. Bigger drama, bigger scale… and it has got the same elements as the

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serial,” Pankaj Kapur was quoted as saying. “The people will associate with it.” There are more ‘Khichdi’s, and Dekh Bhai Dekh stuffs in the pipeline, getting ready to hit the cinemas in the months to come. According to market sources, the filmy versions of these operas will be of some twohours-plus duration with almost the same original starcast, but with a fair element of music- the one essential feature of Indian movies. Though these operas have been fairly successful in scaling high TRPs, and grabbing lot of eyeballs during the mid-90s and later, it is to be seen how well they set the cinemas’ cash registers ringing.


• SPECIAL FEATURE •

Fame, Theatre Guide to Stage Plays Mumbai-based Fame Cinemas has inked an exclusive tieup with Mumbai Theatre Guide to have regular play performances throughout Fame multiplexes in India. The two entertainment companies have forged a long-term arrangement to host regular play performances at Fame cinemas across India. Mumbai Theatre Guide is the only online portal catering to promotions of plays in India, covering English, Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi language plays. ”Our aim is create a platform for promotion of the theatre industry. We have been successful in this venture through our website,” says Mumbai Theatre Guide cofounder Bhavik J Shah. “However there’s been a scarcity of quality venues for performances. The association with Fame Cinemas will create alternative venues and will help the theatre industry reach a larger audience,” he

says, adding, “we are planning to make this a regular affair and showcase plays in various Indian languages at the multiplexes as per the audiences’ choice.” Says Aditya Shroff, AVP-programming, distribution and corporate sales at Fame India Limited: “It couldn’t be a simpler model. The audiences have loved the plays we have chosen to host in the past. It was only natural that we take the concept further and get a regular activity going across all our multiplexes throughout the country.” According to him, Mumbai Theatre Guide gets exposure which they rightfully deserve as they are doing an amazing job for theatre in the country. The play production houses get venues throughout India to showcase their plays. It works for all parties concerned.

Inox Stages Divya Palat’s Play With a view to offsetting the losses due to the standoff with the movie producers, Inox staged the Divya Palat directed play 26/11 recently at its Nariman Point multiplex. The show staged on 19th April at 12 pm was priced Rs 230 and 250 per ticket for two categories. “Touched by the incredible response the play got at a staging in Kala Ghoda, we decided to stage 26/11 again at Inox Nariman Point,” Palat says, “26/11 is a personal account of seven people who went through the tragedy that unfolded on 26/11 in New York.”

Inox Nariman Point general manager Vikas Sethi says, “Inox has always attracted discerning audience with a taste for good cinema. We are sure they will appreciate and support our endeavor to bring them alternate content like plays.”


• INDIAPLEXING •

Defying Recession Indian cinema, despite challenges from within and outside the country, has been trying to defy the odds, and define itself through the critical times. While the global recession has had its bearing on the dynamics of Indian cinema exhibition, the recent spat with the film industry had put paid to its expansion plans. However, the cinema did expand, both in size and scale- though on a lesser note. A TM update. BIG Ambition Touches Dutch Shores BIG Cinemas, India’s largest multiplex chain with 202 screens, has partnered Dutch firm Pathé Theatres for setting up three screens in the Netherlands, which could be the starting point for a larger footprint across Europe. This comes in continuation of the R-ADAG company’s expansion moves in overseas markets that had been marked by its cinema acquisitions in the US, Malaysia, Mauritius and Kathmandu in the past few years. Big Cinemas currently owns 230 screens outside India. However, its first overseas Big Cinemas-branded theatre has recently come up in Chicago. In the Netherlands, the company will roll out three BIG Cinemas screens in Pathé Theaters’ existing megaplexes in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Hague. “Pathé is a perfect fit in our global strategy to bring Indian movies to Europe and other continents. Starting with the Netherlands, we will explore other countries in Europe,” says Anil Arjun, CEO of Adlabs Films. Pathé Theatres is a part of EuroPalaces movie theatre chain that runs 834 screens in France, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. Indian distribution houses prefer Pathé for exhibiting their movies to cash in on the 7,00,000 Hindi movie fans of Indian, Pakistani, Afghani, Turkish and Moroccan origin. Here, Hindi movies like Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Singh is Kinng, Jodhaa Akbar, Dostana and Om Shanti Om have grossed $130,000 to $200,000. “We believe that the admissions can be over 400,000 annually,” Arjun adds. “The efforts so far to distribute Indian films can be described as suboptimal. There are segments the world over where the demand for content is more than the supply, and we believe we can tap into this.” The Adlabs Films chief is confident of breaking even within a year of starting operations in the Netherlands. According to him, the European market, comprising France, Germany and Holland, constitutes 10-12 per cent

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of the overseas market. That the UK’s contribution alone is almost 40 per cent of overseas collections reflects the potential for market expansion and content absorption. Four years ago, the Anil Ambani group had bought a 60 per cent stake in Adlabs from Manmohan Shetty and his co-promoter Vassanji Mamania for Rs 350 crore. Then, Adlabs controlled 70 per cent of the film processing market though its exhibition business was limited to 20 screens. Today, with a global footprint of over 430 screens, the exhibition vertical contributes 40-45 per cent of the Adlabs’ turnover. For the nine months ended December 31, 2008, the company reported a turnover of Rs. 702 crore along with the radio division, which has since been demerged. Adlabs’ revenues were Rs. 550 crore without the radio business. BIG Launch in Chicago: Towards augmenting its footprint in the USA, Adlabs Films-USA, the American arm of the ADAG-controlled Big Cinemas has launched a new five-screen multiplex in Niles, in Chicago-Illinois. Launched under the Big Cinemas brand, the multiplex is a massive 26,549-square feet entertainment destination with a total seating capacity of 1300. The newly acquired cinema is characterised by the Big Cinemas’ mark of Ebony Lounge, which is a full service restaurant and bar featuring a late night menu till 2 am. The program calendar would include Hindi movies, besides with Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi movies as well as world cinema from different ethnicities such as Korean, Chinese, Polish, etc. BIG Cinemas will also be showing live telecasts of cricket matches and other events. Sasy Anil Arjun:”The Chicago launch is in keeping with our vision to establish a strong foothold for BIG Cinemas worldwide in markets which have an appetite for Indian movies. BIG Cinemas has a significant presence in the US with 170 screens and contributes 25 per cent of the box office for Hindi movies and over 65 per cent for Tamil and Telugu movies released in the US. This multiplex at Niles, Chicago is part of BIG Cinema’s strategy to actively promote and ensure better reach of Indian movies.”


• INDIAPLEXING • Inox One Opens Up in Hyderabad

Defying the challenges of recession on one hand, and the standoff with Bollywood industry on the other, Inox Leisure Limited has launched its long-awaited cinema destination in the cinema-rich Andhra capital of Hyderabad. Created as an integral part of the premium retail destination GVK One in Banjara Halls, the cinema has six state-of-the-art screens for a total of 1257 seats, including 75 luxurious recliner seats. Designed by renowned Mumbai-based architects Talathy & Panthaky Associates, the multiplex exudes a distinct interior décor- characterised by the best of Traventino marbles, regal onyx-clad columns, exquisite chandeliers, lush carpeting, rich murals, and, of course,

classically luxury-draped auditoria. The acoustic ambience weaved in by renowned acoustician Parimal Mehta has a matching sync with the interiors and sound and projection system- that comprises both film and digital projection system. While the projection systems are by Christie, the sound systems are comprise Dolby/DTS and QSC 4-way speakers. The digital cinema server solutions are from Doremi. The entire sound and projection systems are installed by Mumbai-based MRH Digital Systems. While the comfort inside the auditorium is complemented by plush seating, the concessions have the characteristic Inox Re-Fuel offerings.

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• INDIAPLEXING •

Commenting on the launch, Inox CEO Alok Tandon said: “we have ensured that movie lovers in Hyderabad enjoy the top of the line Inox experience. With Inox’s convenient location, easy accessibility and modern comforts, we aim to revolutionize the movie watching experience in Hyderabad.” The Hyderabad launch took the Inox total screen count to 97 from 27 locations in 20 cities in the country. The chain already has a 3-screen multiplex running in Vijayawada, and proposes to set up two more multiplexes comprising 10 screens in Vishakhapatnam by the end of the year, and a 4-screen multiplex in Warangal by mid 2010.

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• INDIAPLEXING • A Heritage Fame in Bengaluru

Fame Cinemas, the leading Mumbai-based multiplex chain, recently launched ‘Fame Shankarnag Chitramandira’- a heritage cinema in the heart of India’s Garden City Bengaluru. Located on the up-market MG Road, the retrofitted heritage cinema is a world of wonderment, characterised by dazzling interiors and plush ambience. The 612-seat luxury auditorium has 55 leather recliners in Gold Class which recline up to 150 degrees with an exclusive Gold Class Lounge. The seats are well fitted in the screen giving moviegoers privacy and an ecstatic experience with Butler Service presented at the seat. The spread of food and beverages with a mix of international and local delights gives any movie aficionado a complete experience. “We, at Fame, believe that the movie viewing experience at a cinema should be no less than exhilarating. We are proud to offer to the people of Bengaluru yet another Fame property with the launch of Fame Shankarnag,” Fame Cinemas managing director Shravan Shroff said on the momentous occasion. “Bangalore is known for being a hip city and the people here are known for their natural flair for style and fashion. Our property has been designed in keeping with the taste of this city,” he said and added, “at Fame, we go beyond ‘just movies’ by making every

moment at our cinemas a pleasurable experience. We take care of the finer nuances of hospitality with our specially trained staff, gourmet F&B choices, lot of marketing initiatives, premieres and other exciting opportunities to meet movie stars.” A pioneer in this business of multiplexes, Fame is one of the first to introduce the concept of no-holds-barred luxury in cinema halls. With the addition of Fame Shankarnag, the cinema chain’s total screen count now tallies 74 from a total of 21 locations from across the country.

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• INDIAPLEXING • Indiabulls Takes the Plunge Putting long-running speculations about their interest in cinema exhibition business to rest, New Delhi-based financial services and real estate market player India Bulls finally took the plunge under brand Bullseye Digital Cinema. The company launched its first threescreen leased cinema at Destination Mall in Faridabad in late march. The company had already been operating its food court and hyper store in the mall. Interestingly, the cinema is fully-equipped with DCIcompliant 2K digital projection system comprising Christie CP 2000 projectors and Doremi Digital Cinema Player servers. The delivery model, however, is hard disc-based physical transport. The cinema is also the first full 2Kdigital multiplex in Faridabad. It may be intriguing that the financial services major timed its cinematic foray at a juncture when everything about the business had been speculative. Global recession,

impending stand-off with the movie producers, cost saving tendencies among prospective retail consumers have all made the cinema entrepreneurs wary. There are already six multiplex players vying for the limited cinema cake. More, while Cinemax shut its facility in the town, Movietime renounced its property to the landlord. In an apparent admission of the market turbulence, the company did not seek to make it a big public splash as had been the case with most multiplex launches. According to sources, the company had actually took it as the appropriate timing to test if its model could run in the most unfriendly atmosphere- which was why it made a soft launch. The initial plans were to roll out 20 screens in the first year of operations. Bullseye plans to operate both leased and owned cinema locations in tier-I and teirII towns in the country. Irrespective of the tier, they will operate with 2K digital projectors.

Fun Cinemas’ 2K Multiplex in Jaipur E-City Ventures-promoted Fun Cinemas has launched its 2K digital multiplex at Jhotwara in Jaipur, bringing latest exhibition technology and the digital experience to the moviegoers in the Pink City. Located at Triton Mega Mall, the multiplex has four screens with a total seating capacity of 959 seats. Spread over an area of 34,784 square feet, it’s the city’s first 2K digital cinema with world-class audio visual quality. The digital projection system comprises Christie CP 2000 digital projectors and Doremi Digital Cinema Player servers, with a hard disc-based physical delivery of movies. The auditorium seating arrangement offers different options to choose from- Silver Class, Gold Class, and, for the

first time in Jaipur, the Business Class recliner seats. Being the city’s only multiplex with Business Class, has already set a new benchmark, and now hopes to take the moviewatching experience to a new high. ”We plan to expand and explore more opportunities in tier-II and tier-III cities in India and capture 15 per cent market share of the exhibition industry by 2011,” says the company COO Vishal Kapur. “Besides Jaipur, we are also planning to enter other cities like Jodhpur, Kota, and Udaipur in the same region.” Fun Cinemas currently operates a total of 67 screens across the country with footprinits in cities like Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Panipat, Gwalior and Agra.

E City to Set Up 150 Talkie Towns The Essel Group-promoted E-City Ventures plans to roll out around 150 Talkie Town screens in tier-II and tier-III cities by the end of 2011. Talkie Town is the company’s value cinema brandaddressing the budget segment of the moviegoing community. The company has acquired the single screen Pinky Cinema in Andheri East on a rental basis and re-branded it as Pinky Talkie Town. While Talkie Town already has its footprint in Gulburga, Hyderabad and Goa, the one in Mumbai is the first Talkie Town in the Western metropolis. It was renovated at a cost of Rs 1.25 crore- the lobby, seats, interiors, screen and sound and projection systems etc. have been replaced with with the Talkie Town mark of characteristics. TM-30

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”With Talkie Town we want to give our viewers state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, seating comfort and screens,” Says Vishal Kapur, COO of the company. “We aim to raise the bar for value theatrical and entertainment space in Mumbai.” The tickets are priced at a common rate of Rs 70, irrespective of the time slot. However, once the cinema gets going well with the moviegoers, the management would revise the admission rate according to the time of the show. The renovated Pinky Talkie Town has a seating capacity of 630 and is equipped with computerised ticketing, comfortable auditoriums coupled with neat and clean snack bars.


TheatreMagic ::: July-September 2009  
TheatreMagic ::: July-September 2009  
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