Multiplex chain Carnival Cinemas sees a brighter picture in the film exhibition business. Despite the devastating blow of Covid-19 pandemic on cinemas and threat posed by the OTT platforms, Carnival Cinemas has chalked out an aggressive expansion plan to double its screen count by the end of 2023.

‘Covid plays spoilsport’

“We are ready with our expansion plans. By 2023, we will cross 1,000 screens. Actually, it was our vision for 2020, but due to the pandemic we were forced to push our expansion plan,” Prashant Kulkarni, Head Sales, Marketing & Alliances and Business Expansion at Carnival Cinemas, told BusinessLine . At present, Carnival Cinemas has 450-plus screens across more than 100 cities in the country. The movie chain aims to take this beyond 500 screens shortly.

“The expansion will happen both organic like opening up more cinemas as well as inorganic in the form of strategic alliance or tie-ups,” Kulkarni added.

Kulkarni, who was heading the Sales & Marketing for Carnival Cinemas, was recently elevated to the current role to initiate innovative vertical and horizontal expansion plans.

He was also made the business head for Carnival Cinemas’ diversification venture, Farmse Fresh.

“I have been meeting a lot of people who are making new cinemas and building new malls. Everyone is interested to partner with us,” sais Kulkarni, adding: “They are ready to start with a revenue share basis till the time the pandemic effects are on and then convert to a lease model.” As part of its inorganic expansion, the movie chain is also in talks with theatre owners who were forced to shut their cinema halls due to the pandemic.

“We are talking to a number of such theatre operators and are trying to take some of them under management contract. The model is very simple.

“We are not investing on capex for the next 6-7 months because we have lot of openings to do. So, we have converted this capex into opex,” Kulkarni added.

According to a FICCI-EY report, the year 2020 witnessed the sharpest drop in the number of single screens, with 1,000 to 1,500 screens estimated to have shut down, reducing India’s overall screen count to around 8,000.