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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

I am optimistic that business will pick up: BookMyShow COO Ashish Saksena

Ashish Saksena, COO, BookMyShow, on a new safety feature on the app, the coexistence of offline and online viewing and why cinemas will always attract an audience.

Written by Ektaa Malik | New Delhi | Updated: October 14, 2020 9:40:18 pm
cinema halls reopeningThe app and website of ticket aggregator BookMyShow has a new ‘Safety First’ feature. (Express photo by Mimansa Shekhar)

Following the announcement of Unlock 5, on October 15, several theatres will open their doors to audiences after seven months. Detailed SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) were provided by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which ensure the safety of all moviegoers.

Providing an update on the implementation of those guidelines is the new ‘Safety First’ feature in the app and website of ticket aggregator BookMyShow. The feature was launched on October 13. “The new feature is a ‘safety shield tag’, which informs the audience of various levels of safety and hygiene measures implemented across different cinemas that are listed on BookMyShow,” says Ashish Saksena, COO, BookMyShow. The feature will give information across parameters like in-cinema seat distancing, thermal screening, contactless security check, availability of hand sanitisers, daily temperature check for staff members, social distancing in cinema premises, sanitisation before each show, etc. “We have been working hard for this day to come. We understand that the foremost question on everyone’s mind is ‘how safe will it be to visit a cinema hall again’. When you enter the app, you pick the film you want to view, and then you can see which cinemas are adhering to the various prescribed safety measures. This is a step to empower the audience to make a judicious call to watch a particular film. One might see additional measures being taken by some theatres to go the extra mile,” adds Saksena. This feature has been developed over the last 90 days in-house by BookMyShow, with their partner theatres. “In the new feature, we also have a dedicated space for cinemas that wish to highlight some of their extra measures through videos and pictures. We think this feature can help people decide better, and make them come back to theatres,” he adds.

Read | Khaali Peeli, PM Narendra Modi, Thappad: Films releasing after cinema halls reopen on October 15

The last seven months have been very bleak for the film industry, with several production houses having stopped shooting. Numerous films that were almost ready to be released are yet to see the light of the day in a theatre. The losses, predictably, are huge. “There are no figures to share, as there is absolutely no business. Whatever titles released, they were in the OTT space, and that was just an attempt to capitalise on the situation at hand,” says Saksena. He believes that this will change in the coming months. “Business will come back. I think the moment big films like Tenet start showing, we will attract the requisite audiences and they will adapt to this new way of experiencing cinema. Unlike the US, in India, cinemas account for almost 65 per cent revenue of a film. There is a reason producers and filmmakers are waiting to release their films. Film viewing is big business in India. Right now, we can just wait. I am sure the big releases by the end of the year will bring the crowds back. In India, theatrical revenue is not going anywhere,” shares Saksena.

Almost two decades old, BookMyShow is arguably one of India’s biggest ticket aggregators — for films, plays, stand-up comedy gigs and musical concerts. During the lockdown, the venture also started streaming live concerts from various artistes on its global streaming platform. Initially, the offering was free, but later it switched to a ticketed version. Saksena notes that coexistence of offline and online viewing will continue in the new world order. “Our experiences have show that they will coexist peacefully. Our streaming venture started within a few days of the lockdown more as an effort to recognise that there was something for the users of BookMyShow. The way the business has grown, almost 70 per cent of these events are now ticketed. We have been able to curate some special things, which we have been able to monetise. Something that started as a small gesture has become a significant contributor to our business. Even when out-of-home entertainment picks up, this is here to stay,” concludes Saksena.

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