PVR Cinemas is setting up a 12-screen superplex with the first IMAX in Kerala at the Lulu Mall, Thiruvananthapuram. The cinema will start operations on December 5.

A soft launch was conducted here on Thursday in the presence of Ajay Bijli, Chairman and Managing Director; Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Joint Managing Director, and other top officials of PVR Ltd.

Also, present on the occasion was Yusuff Ali MA, Chairman and Managing Director, LuLu Group International.

The UAE-based NRI businessman said he ‘valued’ the partnership with PVR and will seek to combine each other’s strengths to deliver the best cinema experience. “PVR will accompany the Lulu Group wherever it goes,” Yusuff added referring to further scope for expansion.

Exclusive theatre experience

The 12 screen PVR property hosts international formats such as IMAX and 4DX, two of its luxury formats, and LUXE which delivers an exclusive experience, said a spokesperson for PVR.

Eight other screens provide comfort with last-row recliners. “The next pit-stop for us is Lucknow where we would open 11 screens,” said Sanjeev.

Speaking to businessline, he said India will continue to remain PVR’s focus “because the country is under-screened by a huge margin and there are so many towns and cities where we are not present.”

“But if there are suitable opportunities outside India, we’re open to exploring options,” he added.

Scorching pace of growth

With the LuLu Mall, Thiruvananthapuram, PVR has will have 888 screens in the country. It will add another 70 by the end of this financial year.

According to Sanjeev, the perceived slowdown in the real estate sector has not affected the group. “The real pause came when the pandemic struck and the lockdowns were enforced.”

But movie-going has now resumed. “We intend to grow by adding 100 screens every year from now. There is enough market depth since there are pockets in large cities where multiplexes and malls are coming up. The same goes for even tier-2, -3 and -4 citie,” he said.

Tapping smaller cities

When asked why cities such as Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh will soon have a PVR property, Sanjeev said, “Ours is a product that fits in for everyone and is an exclusive. And people everywhere love to watch movies.”

Asked about average ticket prices and occupancy, he said the prices haven’t gone up by a big margin with average ticket price at ₹250.

“Since we shut down due to the pandemic, prices have gone up by only three per cent. We deliberately kept it low to woo people back,” he said.

At around 50 per cent, average occupancy levels are the highest in South India, followed by the North, West, and the East. Break-even varies from State to State and from the size of investments committed and ranges from 17-18 per cent to 2O per cent.

Regulation of ticket prices

During the last two quarters, movies did very well in the South.

“The first quarter was very good when we got 2,60,000 people into our properties. The ongoing third quarter also looks promising, despite a leaner second one. So, there is ample evidence that people are coming back in droves to the cinemas,” Sanjeev said.

Regulation of ticket prices by governments such as in Tamil Nadu and Telangana is an unfair restriction, he noted.

“I haven’t heard of any other State moving in that direction. Movie watching is not an essential commodity. So regulating prices amounts to being a draconian policy. We must promote flexible pricing, depending on what the market demands and what it can take.”