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BW Businessworld

‘The Big Screen Experience Cannot Be Duplicated’ Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR

“We are prepared to have a more variable and low cost structure, keeping in mind that we are going to be starting slow”

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The likely implications on the industry, the disappointment over continued shutdown of theatres, and the way ahead. Excerpts:

“We are prepared to have a more variable and low cost structure, keeping in mind that we are going to be starting slow”

With almost six months of a pan-India zero box office, what are going to be the implications on the film exhibition industry in the country?

This was a temporary setback which no one had expected, predicted or even accounted for in the wildest of dreams. But I think once this sector reopens, people will come back in hordes for what can be called revenge consumption. It’s going to be a slow start due to lack of content and social distancing norms, but I believe we will bounce back once we get a good film. It’s going to be a matter of maybe six months post opening or so, before we end up normalising our operations.

We were expecting to see Unlock 4 bring news about cinemas reopening in India. But there has been no respite yet. 

It’s very unfair that we were the first ones to shut down and last to open. We don’t have to compare ourselves with what other governments have done, but at the same time, we need to look after the industry here in India, where it is generating employment, direct and indirect, giving GST and other taxes. Still, there is no respite.

How economically viable is it going to be because you are going to be running on100 per cent operational costs and occupancy will be less. Are you reworking the ticket pricing? 

For us, to open is extremely critical now. Are we going to open with a 33 per cent or 50 per cent capacity? One has to see what the government has to say. But we hope they remain fair to us in the protocols. Since the last six months, we have been reworking our costing anyway. We are prepared to have a more variable and low cost structure, keeping in mind and knowing very well that we are going to bes tarting slow. But then we are going to be building up going forward.

Do you see a power shift of screens within the industry?

This is a very temporary phenomenon. I do feel that just the way we didn’t come to that conclusion when restaurants were shut, and Swiggy and Zomato were taking over, the same analogy applies to us as well. Producers also know that the big screen experience cannot be duplicated anywhere else. 

What about plans for diversifying brand PVR? 

Right now our focus remains to make all representations possible and to inform the government that we need to open as soon as possible, and then really revive the business that we are in, and nothing else. 

Are drive-in cinemas part of the plan? 

There is only one we have in Mumbai. There is no massive plan to roll-out drive-ins everywhere right now.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Radhika Bhirani

The author is a Senior Writer at BW Businessworld.

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