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The Gold Rush

With multiplexes in Ludhiana and Malegaon sprucing up to include the VIP seats,Gold is the new cool

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza |
June 16, 2011 12:24:44 am

Mumbai-based Manish Purohit wanted to celebrate his first job as a bar consultant with his family. But he wanted to do more than just take them out for a dinner or give them gifts. Being a family of foodies and movie buffs,he booked seats in BIG Cinemas’ Cine-Diner at Ghatkopar. There,they watched Guzaarish over a three-course meal,all under Rs 5,000. “A mini-theatre,comfortable seating,an intimate setting and a specially-designed menu was the best way to celebrate my new job,” he says.

Purohit represents that section of audience that constantly wants to enhance its movie-viewing experience. With the burgeoning multiplex culture,cinema halls across the country want to make their viewers feel privileged. Though BIG’s Cine-Diner is a one-of-a-kind facility,most multiplex chains today either have separate VIP lounges with recliners and blankets,special menus and customised service or a few designated rows that offer similar facilities.

According to the data with multiplex chains,regular takers for such facilities are mostly high income individuals. “Given people’s passion for movies,even VIPs like to watch films on the big screen,” says Delhi-based Jayendra Banerji,senior vice-president of operations,Satyam Cinemas. This has the Skybox section priced at up to Rs 600 per seat and usually gets up to 60 per cent lounge occupancy. Arvind Chaphalkar,partner,City Pride Multiplex,Pune,agrees with Banerji,adding that the occupancy is highest during the weekends.

Personalised movie-viewing experiences aren’t new to our film-crazy country,where the the dress circle in movie halls offered similar privileges until the 1990s. But the difference is that the privilege class is no longer limited to the “affluent”. Multiplexes that do not want to take the risk of creating a separate section are experimenting with smartening up a handful of top rows. “Lounges make sense only in swish neighbourhoods. For other areas,demarcating a few seats as premium seats makes better business sense,” says Archana Jhangiani,head of brand and marketing,BIG Cinemas.

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Sunil Punjabi,CEO of Cinemax,seconds that,but he feels that the trend is percolating to those keen on climbing the social ladder. “It’s a habit-building exercise and multiplexes have managed to sustain the sales,” says Punjabi.

This probably explains why multiplexes in second-tier cities and towns,like Raigad and Malegaon,now have privilege seats. While BIG is looking at Ludhiana,Ahmedabad and Hyderabad over Bangalore; Cinemax’s next choice,after Mumbai,is Pune for the Red Lounge. Cinepolis,the Mexican multiplex chain slated to open 150 screens in India by 2012,plans to introduce VIP sections in most cities. Delhi,however,remains the favourite destination for exhibitors.

Apart from physical expansion,these multiplexes are also looking at concept reinvention. From the use of noiseless cutlery at BIG,to the pool table in Spice’s Gold Class and plans to have a dedicated play area for kids by one of the popular chains,the multiplexes intend to lure many with the sheen of Gold.

(With inputs from Pallavi Pundir in Delhi and Rohan Swamy in Pune)

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