IMAX Theatres, with an intention to open nearly 16 more theatres in India, plans to increase the reach of its ‘niche’ and expensive offering. Speaking to BestMediaInfo.com, John Schreiner, Senior Vice-President, Theatre Development, IMAX shared his plans, marketing strategy and much more in India.
IMAX currently has 11 theatres in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Delhi and the next phase of expansion with 16 more theatres will be in places like Delhi, Gurgaon and Kolkata. The quality of movies telecast on IMAX screens has be high. Since not many movies are developed and filmed on IMAX equipment, the company has to convert movies into the IMAX format. About 46 movies were converted to the IMAX format in 2016 but in India, they screened about 30.
IMAX is an expensive option for movie goers and makers, making it niche. Schreiner said, “I don’t believe it’s niche, it may be niche today in India in the small footprint of theatres that we have but in countries such as China, where we have over 400 theatres operating and say Russia, where we will be opening our 50th theatre this year, we’re very much in the mainstream. We form the foundation of some of the top performing multiplexes in the world. For example, if you look at the top multiplexes in the US, UK, Russia or China, about 80 per cent of them have IMAX theatres. So, I don’t believe it’s a niche product, I believe it’s going to become more mainstream as more theatres open up in India. In terms of footfalls in India, we’re extremely pleased with the results today. Some of our theatres have over 200,000 patrons a year which is extremely good and we’re excited to grow in the market.”
The IMAX equipment and conversion of a normal movie into an IMAX movie surely takes a premium. The company works together with filmmakers and studios to convert a film to IMAX. The conversion costs are invested by IMAX. So typically, the filmmakers are not charged for the conversion of their films into the format. In general, the approximate cost is probably about a million dollars.
When it comes to Indian movies, Bahubali was recently released in IMAX theatres. Schreiner said, “It’s really down to IMAX having the number of theatres that are required to make it economically viable, not only for IMAX but also for the filmmakers but that equation is definitely changing. Thankfully, as the Indian market has grown, the number of theatres has also grown. The market has also really grown in the Middle East and other markets where there is a strong Indian movie-going population. You’re going to see us convert more films and get more involved in the Indian filmmaking community. We have a couple of titles that we’re working on now and we’re really excited about that. There was quite a gap between when we released Baahubali and our last release, which I think was in 2013 or 2014 with Bang Bang and Dhoom 3. But we are working to have Indian movies release more frequently.”
While the window between theatrical release and television premieres is decreasing, it is hurting the theatre businesses world over. However according to Schreiner, it actually benefits IMAX business. “If people want to see a movie in the best way possible, they’re not going to go to a tiny little screen. The shrinking windows and television content has not really impacted our business, it only served to strengthen the premium offering that we’re providing to consumers.”
Speaking further about the marketing strategy of IMAX in India, he added, “The marketing strategy in India is very similar to what we do all around the world and that’s to focus on opening up theatres in the best possible complexes during outstanding launch activities so that the local market knows that there is an IMAX theatre there and to continue to leverage our strong base on digital and social media. For example, one of the largest populations that IMAX has of active Facebook users is actually in India. So, our outreach for consumers is very strong via that medium. We’re going to continue to grow in that market through various promotional partners that we have. Apart from this, we have very strong partnerships with studios, so we leverage those relationships to get exclusive content, posters and premieres exclusively for IMAX. You’ll see celebrities, directors and technicians working with IMAX technology and they absolutely love how the movie looks and they talk about it in interviews and that’s another part of our marketing strategy.”