Ananya Pathak

“Willing to decorate cinema halls as marriage hall”: INOX CMO Saurabh Varma on repurposing the theatre space

INOX Leisure has launched a ‘private screening’ service. Guests can now book cinema halls for private parties and use movie screens for private content.

As of October 15, multiplex chain INOX Leisure has opened all its operational cinema halls in India for ‘private screening’. With this service, guests can reserve an entire INOX auditorium for a private show – including movie screenings, events, functions, workshops, family surprises and more – for their family members and friends.

“Willing to decorate cinema halls as marriage hall”: INOX CMO Saurabh Varma on repurposing the theatre space

The service can be availed by the guests at the date and time of their choice at any of INOX’s normal screens, or INOX INSIGNIA (for the discerning audience), or KIDDLES (for young patrons), or MX4D EFX Theatre. The guests can choose the content of their choice, either from the current playlist of Bollywood or Hollywood movies, or an old Blockbuster. No OTT shows will be screened. The guests can also choose to not screen a film and, instead, run private content on the screen.

What led to the launch of the service? Over a call, INOX’s chief marketing officer Saurabh Varma tells afaqs!, “There are always two ways of thinking about a strategy – the manufacturer’s point of view and the customer’s point of view. This idea of private screening was born from the latter. We realised that there was potential and worked on it.”

Saurabh Varma
Saurabh Varma

A group as small as one or two members can make a booking (of up to 50 per cent of the auditorium’s capacity), depending on the availability in the preferred location. “Generally, people plan and book a week in advance. However, if you want to book a hall for, say, tomorrow and the show is available, we are willing to make the booking as per the availability. It entirely depends on demand and supply,” Varma mentions.

He says that the booking price starts from Rs 2,999, depending on the day (weekday/weekend), time and screening request. The cost varies according to the number of seats booked, the film distribution fee, food and beverage customisation (if required), and the number of hours the hall is booked for.

“The general booking is usually made for around 2-2.5 hours. But we are open to accepting requests for longer hours. There hasn’t been any enquiry for a day-long period or more for now, though,” Varma points out.

A song launch at INOX
A song launch at INOX

Over the past 15 days, INOX cinema halls have been booked for birthday parties, private movie screenings, a motivational session (with no film screening), kitty parties and more. INOX has also received a booking for video screening of a wedding to be shown to family and friends, and a special proposal event, where a customised slide by a guest for his girlfriend will be screened during a movie’s intermission. Another booking was made for Karwa Chauth by a group of women in Gujarat, who came together to watch a Yash Raj banner film.

Private movie screening at INOX
Private movie screening at INOX

“The imaginations of guests are running wild. When we get on a call with them, the sky is the limit. We are willing to decorate the cinema as a marriage hall, if need be. We are, in fact, looking forward to having a marriage ceremony in our cinemas,” Varma says.

He adds, “INOX is not just an environment to watch a movie, but it has also become an experiential zone, where people come to create memories and get together with friends and family.”

So, how is the brand managing between regular movie shows and private screening? "Usually we schedule our normal shows only 3-4 days prior and open for booking. And private screening enquires come in advance. So even if we have to block and auditorium for private screening we can. The booked hall is then not taken into using during regular movie screening," Verma clarifies.

Since the launch of the service, queries have been made by people from south India and West Bengal – especially because the launch of the service collided with the celebration of Durga Puja, Varma tells us. “There is also a lot of demand for regional content, especially for Bengali and Gujarati films,” he shares.

About the sanitisation of the halls, Varma says that all the guests are required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks at the entrance. PPE kits, which include a mask, a pair of gloves and a sanitiser, are also available for purchase.

There is a pedal-operated touch-free hand sanitiser placed at important locations across the cinema hall. The shows are programmed in such a manner that there are no simultaneous entries, intermissions and exits.

For making a booking, one needs to visit the brand’s website, or call the cinema directly. “We will completely rely on e-tickets, instead of paper tickets. Each guest will receive an SMS...,” Varma tells us. The SMS comes with four different links, One will allow you to check in with your QR code. The second shows the auditorium’s seat chart and the location of your seat on the chart, so that you don’t have to enquire with anyone. The third link provides guest access to the F&B menu to place order, and the fourth one allows them to download the complete e-ticket with all the details.

INOX is relying on digital mediums to communicate about this new concept. “We’re connected with most of our audience on social media, and that is where most of our communication happens as well,” Varma says.

The best part about digital marketing, according to him, is that you get an instant reaction if your idea gets popular, and vice versa.

To promote the service, the brand is also using local area marketing, where different communication strategies are used in different regions... “For instance, we used Durga Puja pandals in Bengal, malls in some regions, airports in others,” Varma elaborates.

He says that private screening is here to stay. It will not be discontinued even after the government permits cinema halls to open with 100 per cent capacity. “We intend to continue the service beyond that. With time, we will improve with (the help of) audience feedback,” he signs off.

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