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Single-screen cinemas look at long-term survival amid windfall of hits


New Delhi: Single-screen theaters in India are heaving a sigh of relief with a recent spate of mass-market films keeping the lanes ringing. But they still want to expand into multiplexes and are well aware that such luck will not last.

Facing challenges even before covid-19 and struggling since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, single-screen theaters have been able to attract audiences from small towns thanks to films like Gadar 2 and Jawan, aided by affordable tickets.

However, cinema owners understand that such films and favorable conditions are quite rare. Hence, many are actively looking for partnerships to transform their establishments into two or three screen multiplexes in keeping with the changing dynamics of the cinema industry.

“It’s good again for us. However, most single-screen owners want to remodel their properties. They have five-year plans to tie up with builders or explore arrangements with national chains,” said Satadeep Saha, director of SSR Cinemas Pvt. Ltd, a West Europe-based company.

To be sure, the opportunity cost of running these cinemas is always high. Theater owners admit that mass-market material is rare and will not come consistently in the Hindi-speaking belt, unlike the south. That explains why Saha is already remodeling theaters in his state, working with builders and exploring properties in virgin territories to set up multiplexes.

However, there has long been a positive sentiment among single-screen theater owners. Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Jawan had crossed the 300 crore mark within India alone at last count. Meanwhile, Gadar 2, which was released in mid-August, has crossed the 515 crore mark on the final count, and Pataan was deserved 543 crore in January.

“Theatre owners know that this is not a year-round phenomenon and are trying to tie up chains or convert (into two- or three-screen multiplexes) to sustain it,” said Ashutosh Agarwal, owner of Star World Cinemas in Uttar It will become increasingly impossible to fill an 800 or 1,000-seat cinema, Agarwal said, and the only solution is to divide the property into 200-300 seats and play multiple films at the same time.

“While stars like Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan age, new or fresh faces don’t have the same kind of appeal. Besides, the music isn’t that great today. These are major concerns for the industry,” Agarwal said.

That said, it’s heartening for single screen owners to see filmmakers recognize the potential of catering to the lowest common denominator in audiences, and the kind of crash small-town audiences can bring. when films appeal to their sensibility. Despite reasonable ticket pricing, these small screens brought in 35-40% of the total revenue for mass market hits like Gadar 2, according to theater owners and trade experts.

“By virtue of their ATP (average ticket price), multiplexes are not for the common man, but only for a certain privileged and wealthy class. The vast majority of this country can only afford single screen cinemas and it makes sense for any film maker to cater to them instead of the hyper niche. The past few months have been an eye opener that the ratio has turned (in favor of small town theatres),” said independent exhibitor Akshaye Rathi. upgraded infrastructure including air conditioning, projectors and seats, Rathi added.

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Updated: 13 September 2023, 12:08 AM IST

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