The film industry was one of the worst-affected sectors when the pandemic hit, forcing producers to reach audiences via OTT platforms. After a long period of uncertainty, the cinema sector is on the road to recovery as most halls have opened up across India. The Maharashtra Government has also allowed cinemas to re-open from October 22. According to reports, 10-15 big-ticket films are set to release in this period, including Sooryavanshi, 83, Jersey and Bunty aur Babli 2.
As the economy opens up and people are getting vaccinated, theatres and multiplexes are hopeful about the future. Pair this with a festive period and cinema advertising is set to return gradually with categories such as retail, e-commerce, automobile and BFSI looking forward to investing in the space, say experts and leaders from the industry.
“I think cinema advertising will return. You have to remember that when the films release, it will be the festive period. There will be a lot of retail opportunities around the festive season. So I do see that cinema advertising bouncing back. However, for the next two to three months, there will be some restrictions on the number of audiences. So in that sense, it will not bounce back immediately. But I certainly do think advertising opportunities will bounce back,” said Rahul Puri, Managing Director, Mukta Arts.
On the other hand, Anand Vishal, Chief Sales and Revenue Officer, Inox Leisure, said, “Once the audience is inside theatres, so are the advertisers. The moment we have bigger films releasing, and the content pipeline gets streamlined, advertisers will come in.”
Vishal said they have five brands who didn’t advertise in the past two years, looking for opportunities with big-ticket Hollywood releases this season. “These clients are more in the luxury space and No Time To Die is a perfect mix for them. But the moment you have Sooryavanshi, 83 and other big films, you will have premium as well as mass advertisers. We have started talking to them actively and they have started making their cinema plan. The moment Diwali comes, we expect at least 80% of the pre-Covid advertisers to be back,” Vishal said.
Will cricket and digital growth impact cinema advertising?
Two big-ticket properties, including the IPL and the ICCT20 World Cup, are lucrative properties for advertisers. In the past couple of years, with no other option left, advertisers across industries experimented with digital advertising at all levels. We asked experts if this will act as a double-edged sword for cinema advertising.
According to Puri, cinema advertising will be a complementary product to digital advertising. “If you look at advertising from a campaign point of view and media plan, what you tend to look at are mediums that are complementary to each other. Digital is a complementary medium that needs to be supported print, outdoor and cinema advertising. Cinema advertising has a better chance of having a captive audience. They have come there for that purpose; their focus is on the screen. So I do think that there are a number of products that will value that. It also gives you the opportunity of having many local brands that otherwise don’t have the capacity of doing such targeted advertising,” he explained.
Vishal said Inox plans to build on cricket fever by allowing matches to be streamed as an opportunity for advertisers as well as to serve the taste of the audience. “We understand that the flavour of the season is going to be IPL and ICC. So we have partnered with ICC and we are going to stream the matches in our theatre. It's like an alternative programming content. For advertisers, there is a bouquet of films as well as cricket where they can come and advertise.”
He said it is early to speak about whether digital has affected them as from March 2020 to November 2021; there have not been any good content available that they have sold. “Digital will take away a lot of money from print and TV. However, cinema is a very different experience. The guys are advertising for that experience, for their product to be seen larger than life. The quality of AV that we provide cannot be replicated on your mobile handsets or on your TV. The cinema money is not going to get passed on to digital,” he explained. He said they have got Tata Cliq, an e-commerce player, as a first-time advertiser.
According to experts, the recovery will be at a faster pace with markets such as Mumbai opening up. Speaking about their recovery since the second unlock, Vishal explained that if they were doing 100% business pre-Covid, they were down at 30-35% after the first lockdown. After the second lockdown, they were at 15% more than the first lockdown. He said most businesses during this time came from the Southern markets.
How multiplexes are trying to get back viewers
Multiplex chains and theatres have figured out various ways to get back audiences.
Inox Leisure announced a partnership with ITC’s ready-to-eat brand Kitchens of India, which will allow customers to order food in the halls or at home. PVR announced its partnership with Nodwin gaming to announce India’s first in-cinema e-sports live tournaments. The pilot will commence from ‘Battlegrounds Mobile India (BGMI)’ and include games from different genres.