Having notched up over Rs 10 crore in ticket sales over 22 shows in Mumbai and New Delhi in its first season, Beauty and the Beast is back at the theatres this summer with a 50 per cent hike in ticket prices and a bigger marketing budget. While Disney India refuses to put a number down for the amount it is spending to draw in the crowds at Mumbai and New Delhi, it says that there is enough demand, given that the previous season played to near full houses for all shows. But has it overplayed its hand with high ticket prices and by restricting itself to the same cities as the first season?
Disney India says the overwhelming response to the show's debut in October-December 2015 has led them to get bolder. "We are excited to be back in a market which was clearly not saturated in the first season," says Siddharth Roy Kapur, MD, Disney India. What makes him so confident? "I mean when you have 95 per cent plus occupancy in the shows, I am sure there are people who missed out on the show or want to watch it again. Also, we're bang in the vacation time, so it is great timing," adds Roy Kapur.
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Disney India is pitching the show more aggressively, spending more on direct marketing initiatives. Also the marketing team is going directly to a higher income group, which is the target audience for a show of this nature, the studio believes.
The team has reached out to exclusive clubs and schools and tied up with Uber to offer special packages for its commuters. The studio is also engaging closely with bloggers (especially those writing on parenting, children and entertainment) to get the buzz going. It is turning to audiences that watched the show in Season I to spread the word among friends through special referral schemes, hoping to re-ignite the word of mouth publicity that that the first season generated.
Kapur expects the audience to be bigger and more receptive to the grand experience, irrespective of higher ticket prices. In the first season, tickets sold for Rs 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 depending on the location of the seat in the auditorium in Mumbai, while in Delhi, it was priced at Rs 3,000, 5,000 and 8,000. In this season, the ticket prices for Mumbai start at Rs 1,500 and go up to Rs 7,500. For New Delhi, the rates are expected to follow the same pattern.
It is difficult to predict viewer behaviour, especially since this is the first big show this year. However Disney India is relying on its experience in the debut season when, despite many raising the alarm bells over ticket prices, the musical played to full capacity. Kapur explains that the show's audience is affluent but has a certain bent of mind regarding the choice of leisure activities.
True, but audiences in Mumbai and New Delhi have far more opportunities to explore such experiences. Besides, they have been already exposed to the musical. Why did Disney India stick to the same cities in its second season? They had planned to travel to many more places, but failed to find an appropriate venue. "We have toyed with the idea (of having a show in Bengaluru) quite a bit. The issue is finding a venue. Once we find a solution to our venue problem, we should be able to take the musical to Bengaluru as well," says Kapur. Beauty and the Beast needs a semi-circular stage, ideally one where some of the audience (those on the expensive seats) can swivel around on their chairs
With the theatricals business, Disney is looking at more than setting up an additional revenue stream. Kapur explains that apart from adding to the entertainment portfolio, a property like Beauty and the Beast also helps the network recognise and tap into talent resources across platforms from films to television and in the future, even digital. "Bugs (Bhargava) who played Cogsworth in the musical ended up voicing King Louise in the Hindi dub of Jungle Book. It is important for us as an entertainment company to identify, nurture and tap into the potential of the talent we work with," he says. The talent that will take to the stage for the second time this season was chosen after a long drawn nationwide search and the studio hopes to be able to use them for more performances in the future.
Will Disney add to its portfolio of theatricals any time soon? "We have a few options. Something like Aladdin comes to mind because of the story, but we're yet to lock down on the title. Hopefully, we'll add another production next year," says Kapur. But what about Jungle Book, given the recent phenomenal success that the movie has seen in India? Disney India has its lips sewn tight.