UTV World Movies now on big screen: Is it a viable business proposition?

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | April 15, 2010
UTV World Movies, which has a library of 600 international titles, has decided to air some of its titles in the theaters to earn some extra bucks. afaqs! finds out if there are any takers and if at all its makes any business sense

UTV World Movies, which has a library of 600 international titles, is planning to debut its world cinema titles in film theatres.

The channel is looking at an alternative revenue stream from the theatrical release of its movie titles, such as Brick Lane, The Song of Sparrows, Wrap Up, The Counterfeiters and I Always Wanted To Be A Gangster.

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According to Sameer Ganapathy, business head, UTV World Movies, the growing demand of the channel's viewers to consume global cinema in 35 mm as well, has given it the impetus to release the best of world cinema theatrically as well. The targeted viewers would be the ones who are exposed to multicultural experiences and are avid cinema lovers.

The movie channel is looking to target its potential audience in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata. Without sharing the specifics of the arrangement with cinema exhibitors who would be showcasing the world cinema titles, Ganapathy mentions that the project, in its initial stage, has got a positive response from those in the business, as theatres are also keen to offer broad-based content to their audience.

UTV World Movies is looking at releasing 8-12 movie titles in the next three months. For the screenings, it is looking at auditoriums with capacity to seat 150-200 viewers.

afaqs! asked a few industry stakeholders whether they were enthused by the idea of world cinema making it to the theatres; and the business value they saw in it.

Though, Harshavardhan Gangurde , vice-president, marketing, Inox Leisure, points out that 90-95 per cent of content that is popular in India is mainstream Bollywood films, he agrees that there is also a space for alternative content with its own loyal audience. However, he also comments that one cannot expect high occupancy for such movies. "Even 30-40 per cent occupancy in a 200-seat theatre would be encouraging. Timings of the shows and ticket pricing will also play an important role in determining the fate of the movies," he says.

In fact, as per the channel head, the tickets for world cinema screenings would be priced according to prevalent norms. This means that the price of a ticket could vary from Rs 80 to Rs 250, depending upon the size and the location of a theatre.

Jayendra Banerji, vice-president, operations, Satyam Cineplexes, also raises his doubts on such movies in theaters. Banerji suggests that generally, the revenue sharing, between the producer and the exhibitor, is 50 per cent of the actual single ticket sale.

To ensure adequate footfalls for the screenings, heavy investment in marketing activities would be required. There is no way that the exhibitor or distributor would manage to draw the crowds, without advertising the movie on a daily basis in newspapers. And according to Banerjee, the cost of print advertising turns out to be the major component of the marketing budget of a movie. All these factors would definitely come into play in determining the nature of the contract between theatres and UTV World Movies.

On its part, UTV World Movies claims to have a 360-degree campaign to promote its theatrical releases, while using the inherent strength of the UTV network in creating maximum awareness about the movies. Besides, the usual mailers and communications would be used to target the loyal audience of the UTV World Movies channel, coupled with special mentions and posters at places such as clubs, pubs and restaurants frequented by world cinema connoisseurs.

Vivek Kotian, senior consultant, Percept Profile, as an industry follower and a world cinema lover, sounds optimistic about the idea of going to a theatre and watching a Japanese or an Iranian film.

However, he has several reservations about the profitability of the initiative. His major concern is related to the scheduling and frequency of world-class cinema titles. Kotian asks, "How many theatres would be willing to push back their regular commercial releases to accommodate UTV World Movies' titles in premium slots?"

If the title is played at 11:45 pm in the night, the product (movie) will be killed. For attracting sizable audience, the movies have to be given semi-prime slots at least (say, 4 pm), if not prime time. Also, to build curiosity and ensure a regular stream of viewers in the first four weeks of the initiative, the international titles should ideally be played frequently throughout the week, with as many as two shows on weekends.

Kotian says that it's difficult to make predictions on cost and revenue, in the absence of details of the revenue model that UTV World Movies would follow. However, he adds that the channel could look at one of three revenue-sharing models: profit and loss basis, minimum guarantee basis, or pure ticket sales basis.

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