The multiplex-mall equation

Despite a mixed year for Bollywood, malls and multiplexes will continue to coexist

Salil Panchal
Published: Mar 30, 2015 06:40:13 AM IST
Updated: Mar 30, 2015 12:19:36 PM IST

Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.

The multiplex-mall equation
Image: Mexy Xavier
Alok Tandon, CEO of Inox Leisure

Look around you. On most weekends, there are as many—if not more—people in a thriving mall as there are in a park or at the beach. “As a race, we are not outdoors people; not heavily into trekking or beaches. For us, a good evening out is an air-conditioned place to shop, eat and watch a movie,” says Alok Tandon, CEO of Inox Leisure, the entertainment arm of the Inox Group. “And this will not change.”

This cultural proclivity is one of the many reasons why the multiplex business is optimistic, despite a mixed year for Bollywood, sluggish consumer spending and project delays in the construction of new shopping malls in tier I cities. As Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director at PVR Ltd, India’s biggest multiplex chain, puts it, “The consumption story is too strong. The spending density is low at this stage, but I expect it to come back in about six to eight months.”

This buoyancy is backed by the fact that the country is still under-screened. There are about 9,000 screens in India, of which multiplexes account for approximately 25 percent. The total screen density in India is eight per million, in comparison with 117 per million in the US. For multiplexes, it is less than one screen per million, industry data shows.

But the factor that cannot be ignored as far as the future of multiplexes is concerned is the mall. As Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director of PVR, points out, malls will continue to guide the future of multiplexes. “Multiplexes form only a tenth space at the mall. They are integral but are not driving malls at present,” he says.

And the others are in agreement. “Malls and multiplexes will have to coexist,” says Tandon, whose Inox has 368 screens at 95 properties across 52 cities. Only a handful of the 95 properties are standalone (operating without a mall).

In 2002, when there were very few malls in India, Inox started operations by buying two properties—one in Pune (Bund Garden) and another in Vadodara (Race Course)—and developed them into a mall and a multiplex.  “These worked well for us, but as professional developers started making malls, we started concentrating on our core competency of running cinema halls,” Tandon says.

PVR, like Inox, plans for an all-India expansion. It has already increased its presence to mall-centric places like Noida, Gurgaon and Chennai, and moved to smaller towns like Nanded and Latur in Maharashtra and Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. Today, PVR has 462 screens across 104 properties in 44 cities and one union territory.

The near future, says the senior Bijli, is less of a worry since most of the malls they have signed up with will come up. “It is the five years after that which I am worried about, as no new malls are being planned for.” 

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(This story appears in the 03 April, 2015 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Amrita Kadam

    Nice article but another big player and a game changer in the exhibition business, Carnival Cinemas is missing.

    on Mar 31, 2015