This has been a momentous year for PVR Cinemas. In March, the company announced that it was merging when INOX Cinemas. When that deal is finally approved, which is expected in the coming months, the combined entity will become the largest film exhibition company in India operating 1,546 screens across 341 properties in 109 cities. In May PVR entered into an agreement with Oma Cinema of France to introduce the concept of cinema pods in the Indian market. Through its vertical architecture, Oma provides the audience with an intimate cinematic experience with tiered balconies, or pods, enabling viewers to enjoy a sociable cinema experience while enjoying a perfect view of the screen. Later that month, PVR introduced 270-degree on-screen experiential cinema advertising. The car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki was the first advertiser to use the platform to launch its new 2022 Maruti Suzuki Brezza. In July the company announced it was working with Cinionic to convert all its screens to laser projection. And last month it worked with Amazon to present a truly unique cinema ad. The commercial begins with a voice-over giving a command to Alexa to dim the lights. To the audience’s surprise, not only do the lights in the film dim, but the theatre lights dim as well. I recently spoke via email with PVR Cinemas CEO Gautam Dutta and Cinionic CEO Wim Buyens to speak about innovation and its role in cinema’s future. Here is our conversation.
Digital Cinema Report: In March of this year, PVR Cinemas announced that it was merging with INOX to form India’s largest cinema chain. The stock exchanges have approved the deal. Where does it stand today?
Gautam Dutta: The announced merger with INOX Leisure is progressing well. Both the companies have received No Objection Certificates from the two stock exchanges (BSE and NSE) on the proposed scheme of merger. We have filed our application jointly with INOX for the approval of the scheme of the merger before the National Company Law Tribunal.
DCR: Throughout the year, PVR Cinemas has introduced many innovations in cinema advertising. Why are you so bullish on cinema advertising?
GT: PVR Cinemas, in addition to being the largest cinema exhibition company in India is also the largest in-cinema advertising player in the country. The media and entertainment sector were impacted by the subdued consumer spending across film, events, and television due to the pandemic. With the impact of lockdown, the share of in-cinema advertising has declined against traditional forms of media. Since its comeback, PVR has been working hard to break the inertia on inaction on advertising and has been relentlessly working in the space of on-screen innovation to drive higher excitement for brands. Introducing the industry's first experiential advertising in cinemas, PVR reinforces the fact that it is an uber-effective medium for active advertising and brand engagement. With experiential advertising, PVR is set to offer a one-of- its kind exposure to in-cinema advertisers and push the boundaries of on-screen cinema advertising for an immersive experience of the brand. Maruti Suzuki became the first advertiser to use this platform to launch its all-new 2022 Maruti Suzuki Brezza in cinemas.
DCR: PVR Cinemas recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Congratulations on that milestone. Technology seems to have played a key role in the company’s history. As an example, also this year, PVR Cinemas expanded its agreement with Cinionic and is installing laser projection technology across its enterprise. What was the thinking behind the move to laser projection?
GT: PVR Cinemas is a name synonymous with the word movies and that has come to redefine the finest cinema experience in India for the last 25 years and has been at the helm of cutting-edge technology. It has created brands and formats that appeal to every audience profile. PVR is the first in India to introduce 4DX multisensory and IMAX immersive cinema formats. It is also credited with bringing India’s first LED Screen Cinema Onyx, premium large screen format with laser projection and kids cinema concept Playhouse. PVR is aligned to the Climate Action SDG goal of the United Nations and has committed to lower its emission and reduce its carbon footprint. Installing laser projectors is a sustainable investment from PVR as part of its endeavor to make changes in operational practices for reducing emissions and conserve energy for a sustainable future. The award-winning Barco Series 4 family from Cinionic features next generation 4K laser projection that supports sustainability with reduced waste, lower energy consumption, and an extended lifetime. The thoughtfully designed Series 4 moves away from the use of consumables, utilizing reusable components like air filters, and the laser light source eliminates the need for lamps and their subsequent replacement and disposal. All models within this leading laser projection range are also exceptionally efficient, reducing power consumption with smart power management, minimized heat dissipation, and increased operational efficiency.
DCR: If you can share, what innovations can we expect from PVR Cinemas in the coming months?
GT: PVR’s strategy has always revolved around the changing aspirations of our customers to offer them a differentiated and premium experience. As a leading out-of-home entertainment destination, PVR strives to build cinemas with more experiential elements [that are] not possible in a home environment setting. It will be adding the immersive Ice Theatres for a brand-new innovative experience meant to captivate their most demanding moviegoers that features non-reflecting LED panels, targeting the moviegoer’s peripheral vision from the start to the end of the movie. Inspired by the design of the great theatres and opera houses, it will be introducing Ōma Cinema’s unique tiered balconies, or pods to enable viewers to enjoy a unique, sociable, cinema experience whilst enjoying a perfect view of the screen.
DCR: Big Cine Expo was held last month in Chennai. What does that event mean for PVR Cinemas and for Cinionic?
GT: Big Cine Expo organized by Network208 [held] its fifth edition after a gap of two years. The event is held in high esteem for all stakeholders in the cinema exhibition industry as a [place] to network with the who’s who in the film business. The last two years have been quite challenging for the film exhibition industry both globally and in India due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence it is important for PVR Cinemas and Cinionic to use such events to showcase the strength of its collaboration to the larger film exhibition fraternity with a view to grow the market further and bring world-class immersive movie viewing experience to every part of the country. India being an under-screened market provides a significant growth opportunity for multiplexes.
Wim Buyens: PVR continues to be a leader in the cinema industry, now as the first exhibitor in India to move to 100 percent 4K laser projection. Their work with Cinionic to enhance the theatrical experience and emphasize on sustainability is setting a new precedent for the market. Events like Big Cine Expo shine the spotlight on the bold moves by PVR to reenergize the industry and advance the moviegoing experience for audiences throughout the region.
DCR: Overall, what does Big Cine Expo mean for India?
GT: Big Cine Expo facilitates domestic and international business exchanges, and acts as a gateway to international manufacturers targeting the Asian Market. While PVR participates abroad in international expos such as CineAsia and CineEurope to learn about the latest equipment, products, and technologies to stay ahead of the trends in the global context, Big Cine Expo being a domestic expo is important to understand the customization and the vision that these players bring to India.
WB: Big Cine Expo is a key moment for the industry to meet to celebrate and align on the future of cinema. The industry is undergoing a period of rapid transformation now with theaters innovating to upgrade the moviegoer experience. Key trends driving growth include new business models, elevated presentation with laser projection, and premium offerings like CGS. With close partnership, collaboration, and a shared passion, we are collectively guiding the next era of cinema in India.