Monday, June 20, 2016

Perspective - PVR Cinemas : How they revolutionised film viewing experience of India || Sushman Das || IIM Lucknow || March 2016 edition

PVR Cinemas : How they revolutionised film viewing experience of India?

- Sushman Das
IIM Lucknow

PVR is one of the most fascinating success stories of Indian liberalization and has redefined the film-viewing experience in India. From introducing the first multiplex experience in India to introducing newer properties like PVR bluO, it has gone from strength to strength. With a market capitalization of over ₹ 2000 crore, the PVR Group is the largest player in the Indian cinema exhibition space.
The idea took seed when Ajay Bijli, its founder, on a visit to Orlando, Florida had his first experience of world-class cinemas and was fascinated by the new-age facilities of multiplexes. Priya cinema,which had been bought by Ajay Bijli’s father and was frequented by Ajay became the first in India with a Dolby sound system.

The technical transformation at Priya cinema and screening of all big-budget Hindi films and Hollywood blockbusters made it acquire a cult status among then cine-goers. By entering into a 60:40 joint venture with Village Roadshow Ltd of Australia, Ajay tried to leverage the technical expertise the Australian firm had in setting up multiplexes. PVR Anupam was one of the first cinemas which were jointly renovated. Transformed into the first multiscreen cinema in 1997,it became a runaway success.

Though myriad reasons can be attributed to PVR’s success, one of the key factors is that the group has looked at the business through the customer’s prism: what does the customer need and what is the market offering it? This took precedence over the typical emphasis on returns on investment or net profit margins. This shift in focus, backed by market studies, research and interactions with market players led to PVR successfully building a world-class brand. Location was understood to be one of the important building blocks of a successful film entertainment and retail business and when it came to establishing multiplexes, PVR chose locations extremely carefully. Target market segment, socio-economic strata and catchment area are till date examined in granular detail while expanding to newer cities. The company acknowledges that quality of experience is a critical building block and takes minute care right from construction to fittings and styling— everything is fashioned to provide a plush viewing experience. Rich ambient lighting, ideal temperature controls ensure total comfort and plush common areas characterize the chic and premium PVR experience.

PVR attracted film distributors by bringing in transparency into the ticketing system by introducing computerized bookings. All this has had tangible results and the brand has been able to garner higher seat occupancy levels in cinemas irrespective of average ticket prices.

Growth is imperative for any business. PVR, too, has systematically scaled up film-exhibition
activities through an organic process for nearly seventeen years— be it in product, positioning, promotions or pricing. After the 9/ 11 attacks, Village Roadshow Ltd exited the joint venture and ICICI Venture picked up its 40 per cent stake for $ 10 million. In 2007 the company forayed into production with with Taare Zameen Par, made in collaboration with Aamir Khan Productions. The firm has established key relationships with many Hollywood studios including Miramax, New Line, IEG and Zee MGM. In November 2012, PVR acquired the entire 69 per cent stake of promoters in Cinemax India Ltd. This acquisition was one of the fastest-paced takeover deals in India’s corporate history. The objective was to create India’s largest movie exhibition chain and also to
effectively utilize the synergy potential and cost benefits that would accrue from the larger scale of operations of the combined network, thereby creating value for all stakeholders.

In 2013, PVR multiplied in size and operations. The company expanded its presence from 27 cities to 41 and its market capitalization was reported to be ₹ 2,204 crore (as on 1 February 2014).The company today owns almost a third of India’s 1,500 odd multiplex screens. The Cinemax acquisition gave the company a launching pad in the south in which it was absent till then. The company plans to add 70 to 80 screens every year and have 1,000 screens across India by 2018 through organic and inorganic growth. In 2016, PVR currently operates a cinema circuit comprising 474 screens spread over 106 properties in 43 cities across India and is the largest cinema exhibition company in India. PVR is today amongst the top ten cinema companies in the world with respect to admissions per screen and has entered the World Economic Forum’s list of fastest-growing ‘Global Growth Companies’.
Despite the advent of online consumption of film entertainment, PVR has maintained its relevance by redefining the cinema-viewing experience for movie connoisseurs by providing world-class immersive viewing. PVR has capitalized on the totality of experience which today’s young generation seeks. By turning theatres into classy, stylish luxury spaces and quasi-community centres, a PVR cinema assures ‘absolute escapism’, in the words of Ajay Bijli. By developing and positioning sub-brands like Gold Class cinema, Director’s Cut luxury cinema, IMAX technology theatres and Enhanced Cinema Experience (ECX) to cater to specific customer segments, it has set new benchmarks in the cinema exhibition business.

PVR Pictures, the company’s flagship motion-pictures arm is involved in the distribution of major Hollywood movies in India. In 2013-14, it was involved in the distribution of all the major 2013– 14 Oscar-nominated films— The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Her, Lone Survivor, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club. PVR became the 1st major multiplex chain to introduce the concept of alternate content to India by launching a brand new platform— PVR LIVE— which showcases live and recorded events. The company supports independent filmmakers by releasing their films under the PVR Director’s Rare banner and has been a vanguard in bringing about a paradigm shift from star-driven cinema to content-driven in India. Documentary films like Superman of Malegaon and Fire in the Blood have attracted audiences under this banner.

The company’s newest venture is bluO, a one-stop entertainment destination which promotes bowling. A 51: 49 joint venture between PVR and Major Cineplex Group of Thailand, bluO aims to do for bowling what T20 has done for cricket. The format is a mix of fun and bowling— world cuisine, music, sport— coming together. bluO is a unique concept and elements like an exceptional rhythmic interior design with a sensual play of light and form and a ceiling that emanates as a ripple wave makes the place energetic, stylish and in sync with the lifestyle and ideology of today’s youth. As of 2015, PVR bluO had six centers, across Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Pune and Chandigarh. By offering services like PlayStation lounges, private karaoke lounges, exclusive platinum lounges, stylish merchandise, a tattoo studio and well-equipped bars; it aims to rival pubs and nightclubs as spaces to hang out in.

The company has also shaped the growth of cine advertising in the country. By expanding the scope
of cinema watching to a rounded entertainment-cum-leisure activity where the audience voluntarily surrenders to the environment, which yield higher receptivity to brand messaging as compared to other mediums ,its cinema advertising revenue rose to ₹ 141 crore in 2015 which is equal to the combined sales of all competing players.

All this has resulted in PVR being listed as India’s most trusted and attractive brand by The Brand Trust Report 2015 in the category of entertainment and cinema display. Ajay Bijli was awarded the Most Admired Multiplex Professional of the Year in CMO Asia’s Multiplex Excellence Awards.
With the advent of ‘smart cities’ and rising disposable incomes in urban India,PVR promises to be to be force to reckon with in the Indian entertainment space in the years to come.


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