Superstar Salman Khan has been vocal about the need to open more multiplexes on the outskirts of cities. Ajay Devgn is revamping some theatres in Uttar Pradesh and plans to buy 200 more screens soon.

But are multiplexes reaching their saturation point? In cities, perhaps. But there’s tremendous scope to develop multiplexes in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, says a top official of India’s largest cinema exhibition chain PVR Cinemas.

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“The multiplex growth in metros is likely to slow down gradually. We are rapidly expanding our presence to tier-2 and tier-3 markets that will fuel the growth of multiplex industry and give the patrons the right movie watching experience,” Gautam Dutta, CEO of PVR Cinemas, told IANS in an email interview adding that growth should be coupled with a government thrust to promote small towns into cities in the future.

“Change in the approach of people towards watching movies and rise in disposable incomes are encouraging signs for expanding our presence beyond tier-1 cities,” he said.

According to a 2018 FICCI-EY report on India’s media and entertainment sector, single screens cinemas have reduced from 9,710 screens with 91 per cent share of total screens in India in 2009 to less than 71 per cent share in 2017 with 6,780 screens. At the same time, multiplexes have grown at a steady rate of over 10 per cent over the last years.

The report stated that the Indian film exhibition segment in terms of numbers of screens was less that one-fifth in size as compared to developed markets like China and the US.

“The ratio is expected to further deteriorate with India facing a constant decline in its screen count, due to the shutdown of single screens,” it said.

The Indian entertainment industry is brimming with stories, and produces most number of films in a year. But India stands “as one of the most highly under-penetrated markets among major countries with 8 screens per million”, the report added.

But this may change in future.

“The rise in disposable income, data penetration, more awareness for films and more people seeking entertainment are significant factors contributing to the growth of films in tier-2 and tier-3 markets,” Dutta said.

Dutta, who is determined to expand base of PVR in south India, points out that rural areas are developing into small towns, complete with malls.

“Single screen theatres (are) giving way to multiplexes due to inherent challenges in sustainability. Multiplexes will get evolved to megaplexes with 10 screens and above showcasing the best of global formats under one roof offering maximum number of shows and content options for a consumer to choose from,” he said.

He feels multiplexes are thriving because of low screen density but consolidation would happen.

PVR has 625 screen in 134 properties across india, including 155 screens in 23 properties in South India. The company expects to add 90 screens in the current financial year.

“Every year we target to grow organically by adding 60-70 screens. However, this year we hope to exceed this benchmark,” Dutta said.

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