CEO, Inox Leisure
Spending 8-9 hours in a movie theatre watching a live cricket match on the large screen - that's not something status quo in India. Nonetheless, that is what cinema chain Inox Leisure is offering fans. In 13 cities across India, the multiplex chain has devoted screens to playing ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup matches featuring team India. Inside the theatre, where silence is usually preferred, during matches, however, dhols are beaten and whistles are blown quite frequently.
Alok Tandon, CEO, Inox Leisure, calls it a "stadia experience". Inox, with 570 screens in India, is one of the largest cinema chains in the country. It reported a total income of Rs 1,707.08 crore in the year ending March 2019 which went up from Rs 1,348.12 crore generated in 2018. In Q4, FY 19, (January-March 2019), Inox reported an overall footfall of 180 lakh, up from the 126 lakh in the previous quarter.
Net Box Office collections, food and beverage sales and advertisements are the avenues from which cinema chains derive revenue. In Q4, FY-19, Inox leisure reported Box Office revenues of Rs 284 crore up from Rs 190 crore (50 per cent growth). Inox acquired the cine-telecast rights of the tournament from ICC and will screen all nine league matches featuring India followed by both the semi-finals and final.
We spoke to Tandon about this initiative.
What inspired Inox to screen Cricket World Cup matches in cinemas; was there research which indicated an opportunity?
The big idea is to bring delight to our patrons through content-driven innovations and converging them with our brand pillars of luxury, technology and service. Screening of ICC World Cup matches is an innovation as this is going to be a unique experience for fans. This innovation is an amalgamation of two "religions" in India - we are marrying the cricketing obsession with the giant screen craze. The stadium-like energy and the carnival-like atmosphere would make the fans feel like they are watching the match right there in England. Also, we know for sure that sports, especially cricket, come with a huge brand connect opportunity. And when it is about the World Cup, the entire country tunes in. The attempt is to capitalise on this huge attachment for cricket. This gives us an opportunity to connect with a wider demographic which is connected by their love for cricket and Inox's cinematic experience.
How did you decide which cities to devote screens for matches to and why those cities?
While the initial scheduling, to begin with, is for 13 cities, we have not limited ourselves to these and are free to increase if required. There are a lot of factors like screen availability, permissions from authorities, paying propensity etc. to consider when making these decisions. It is the very first time that the ICC has provided cinema screening rights. Similarly, it is our first experience with World Cup Cricket. We have not limited ourselves to metros. If you look at the list, besides Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore, we are also screening in cities like Baroda, Surat and Faridabad.
How did you decide how much to charge per ticket for nine-hour-long matches?
When determining the prices, we consider the location, cost of the structure, paying propensity of the catchment, the day of the week, and the time of the day. This is a common formula for all types of screenings, whether theatrical releases or special events. As per our regular way of computing ticket prices, there are tickets for the World Cup screening for as low as Rs. 450.
What is the profile of the audience group visiting the theatres to watch matches? Is it the same as cinema lovers?
Cricket is a national obsession in our country and so is cinema; therefore, our audience profile is universal and thus, the target set is common. But events definitely help us bring non-cinema lovers to our multiplexes, giving them a feel of the giant screen and the ambience. What we have observed so far is - from teenagers to 60-year-olds, across all age groups, walked in to watch the matches. We have also received a lot of queries from corporates about bulk bookings. Many families also walked in and it became a family outing for them.
How are you promoting this initiative; what mediums are you using?
We are ourselves a media company, so there's a fair amount of on-screen and off-screen promotion at our multiplexes. We have also decked up our cinema lobbies and brought the World Cup spirit alive with promos, experiential engagements and cutouts. Externally, digital has been our primary mode of promotion for the World Cup screening. We have also relied on print advertising. Overall, we have adopted an integrated approach.
How has the response been so far and in which cities did you see a higher footfall?
While we don't have a number to share yet, the response, so far, has been very good. Our patrons love the experience and we can feel their gratitude. As I said, cricket is a national obsession, and, therefore, all the cities are seeing a similar response.
In the long run, do you see sports becoming a significant contributor to your overall footfall and thus, revenue?
Ticketing, as we always believe, is a function of content. Content is the new "hero" and as long as the content is performing well, ticketing revenues will flow in on its own. More than revenue generation efforts, we look at Live events largely and purely as consumer delight and brand building initiatives. A lot has been written about sports as the best content for gaining eyeballs and there is no doubt about it. As passionate fans get involved, their passion is translated into engagement and that makes sports a great opportunity, from a content perspective. Once the relationship gets stronger, the revenues will follow. We at Inox are looking beyond that.