Multiplex operator Inox plans to invest up to Rs 320 crore to open 128 screens in the next two-three years while it continues to scout for acquisitions, especially for regional players, to expand footprint across India.

“We have a visible property pipeline based on identified locations and signed lease agreements for adding 128 screens that could lead to about 557 screens in 2-3 years,” Inox Group of Companies Director and Group Head — Corporate Finance, Deepak Asher, told analysts in a conference call.

Asher added that the company would spend between Rs 2-2.5 crore each to open new screens, with the cost depending on the location where the screen will come up. The company will invest between Rs 250-320 crore.for opening 128 screens.

When asked if the company is done with acquisitions to expand its footprint, he said: “There are 15 to 20 regional chains and all of these have anywhere between 20 to 60 screens each, so there would be potential consolidation opportunities ... we are willing to look at acquisition possibilities.”

At present, the national chains include PVR, Inox, Carnival and Cinepolis.

The Indian multiplex space has been in a consolidation mode as lack of space for opening new cinema halls, low footfalls in a large number of malls and high rentals have made the organic growth difficult.

In June, PVR Ltd had acquired real estate major DLF’s DT Cinemas for Rs 500 crore. Inox and a private equity player were also said to be in the race for DT Cinemas.

In January, Mexican multiplex chain operator Cinepolis fully acquired Essel Group’s Fun Cinemas.

In December 2014, Carnival Group had acquired Big Cinemas from Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group for an estimated Rs 700 crore, making it the biggest deal in this sector.

In July 2014, Inox Leisure had acquired Gurgaon-based rival Satyam Cineplexes in a Rs 182-crore deal to strengthen its presence in north India. It also bought multiplex cinema theatre firm Fame India and Calcutta Cinema Private Ltd (CCPL) in West Bengal.

At present, Inox operates 377 screens in 97 properties across 52 cities in the country.

In order to provide better services, Inox has started paperless tickets service on a pilot basis for sale of tickets through the website or app and ticketing aggregators.

“We intend to launch it in all major cities in the next couple of weeks,” the company said.