The ubiquitous box office in a cinema theatre from where one bought tickets to watch a film would be history in the new normal post the coronavirus lockdown. While multiplexes would probably be the last to bounce back in the new normal, multiplex companies such as PVR and Inox are going all out to make their properties safe for their patrons. Movie ticket buying will completely shift online, which is one of the many precautions these companies plan to take in order to offer a contactless experience. "Almost 60-70 per cent of our tickets are already booked online, now we are making box offices redundant in most properties. People will get QR codes on their phones, which they can flash in front of the security. At the security, we will have door frame metal detectors instead of hand-held metal detectors so that there is a distancing maintained," explains Ajay Bijli, MD, PVR.
"There is no doubt that COVID has challenged the passion for cinema which is prevalent in our country. In order to serve them the safest experience, we have re-engineered most of our processes, ensuring that the responsibility to ensure entertainment is not compromised. I am sure these practices will slowly become an integral part of a consumer's behaviour," adds Alok Tandon, CEO, Inox Movies.
Apart from temperature checks being done for both the patrons and employees, multiplex chains claim their spends would be up by 15-20 per cent for putting in place strict safety and hygiene practices. PVR, says Bijli, would be investing in a hygiene product which will keep the seat disinfected for 30 days. "There will be stickers on the seats to say that the seat was sanitised on a particular date. We are putting disinfectants even in the AC ducts. Our employees will also wear a badge saying that they have been tested and are safe. Our best-practices are better than what it is being practised even in the matured markets."
While all of them are planning staggered seating in order to ensure physical distancing, Tandon of Inox also says that movie shows would be planned in such a way that entry, intermissions and exits to two shows don't occur simultaneously so that crowding of lobbies and restrooms can be avoided. Food and beverage contributed around 30-35 per cent of a multiplex company's revenue and prior to COVID-19, most of them had made huge investments on their F&B menu. From international cuisine offerings to live kitchens manned by teams of celebrity chefs, multiplex menus were as lavish as it could get. The new normal would be back to basics as far as multiplex menus are concerned. It will be back to the good-old popcorn and cold drinks. "We will truncate our menus, lot of the food will be pre-packed, which will help in reducing the waiting time at the food counters," points out Bijli.
Staggered seating and truncating of menu cards will surely lead to a loss of revenue and it would take a long while for the multiplex business to revive. Bijli disagrees. "There is lot of misconception that our installed capacity will get reduced to half. It will not get reduced to half, it will get impacted by only 10-20 per cent," he says.
"The lesser seats that we would sell and the lesser shows that we would run in our cinemas whilst sacrificing revenues, will be the investment of inventory that we will be making for gaining customer confidence, which will be our top priority," adds Tandon.
With footfalls likely to be half of these multiplexes' actual capacity and revenue from F&B likely to be considerably muted, will the cinema-going experience get more expensive (average cost of a multiplex ticket is around Rs 200-Rs 300)? It is a blatant no from the multiplex head honchos. "We want to bring people back to the cinemas, we will not increase our prices," says Bijli.