Multiplex owners with their increased reach, might now be in driving seat and have a say in deciding revenue share models and content costs. Earlier, movie producers had the upper hand.
Multiplexes have come a long in way, since their inception. PVR started with one property in Delhi 17 years back. Now, it is a behemoth with 353 screens across India, and controls almost one third of the multiplex screens in the country. The top three multiplex players—PVR, Inox Leisure (which also owns Fame Cinemas) and Big Cinemas, control over 75% of screen space.
Acquisitions are driving this growth. Recently, PVR acquired promoters' shares in rival multiplex chain Cinemax. INOX Leisure might also be evaluating options to buy out other multiplex chains. Experts say that DT Cinemas, Fun Cinemas and SRS must join the bandwagon for fewer players who can yield power. These developments indicate the shift of power to multiplex players.
“Studios can't survive without multiplexes and this is very dangerous. Any kind of power corrupts and PVR is now the most powerful multiplex operator. Ultimately, they will be able to dictate the terms,” says Amod Mehra, senior trade analyst and film critic.
The top two multiplex chains, PVR and Inox have a strong pan-India presence, which can intimidate studio owners. “Now these two chains have power to make or break any movie. Producers and distributors will have to listen to them,” said a senior investment banker.
There are a few victims already. A film producer who refuses to be identified says that he had suffered in the past. “It is already difficult to plan a release with almost 3-4 films releasing every week. Small films rarely get good screens and if we don't agree to a PVR or an INOX, they may kill the movie,” he said.
Industry experts believe that the multiplex industry is coming of age. The expansion drive which started in 2005 with Anil Ambani buying out Adlabs films and acquiring screens with rapid speed, is now settling.
The phenomenon of multiplexes has already spread to tier 2 cities, apart from being major players in metros and other urban centres. According to a report by FICCI-KPMG, multiplexes will double over the next five years taking the total tally to over 2,200 screens by 2016.
“The big daddies of the cinema exhibition business are becoming bigger. Top two exhibitors will have a consolidated topline revenue of over Rs 1,100 crore. What it means is that they will pull down the distributors' share. It is also the time for smaller chains either to get aligned with big chains, or to get marginalised,” said senior executive from a multiplex chain. As the big two get bigger, trade pundits believe, smaller multiplex owners will align with big players, or stay small.
These chains however, are not without their own problems. Their major challenge is is non-availability of differentiated content. As the content is almost same, a price war is imminent in the industry. It may go in the favour of consumers, but can affect the health of the multiplexes if they chase volume.