Inox Leisure, one of India’s top cinema chains, said it plans to add 8,850 seats across 11 new properties to its multiplex chain in the ongoing financial year, taking the total seats to 1.56 lakh by March.
These 11 new properties would bump its screen count by 49 to 692.
Out of the 49 new halls, around half (24) are carry-overs from last year. These could not be completed last year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only upended the construction business, but also thrown the leisure and tourism industry into a whirlwind of uncertainty.
As a result, against the original plan of adding seven new properties last year, the company added only one new property. Of the remaining six properties, it has already inaugurated one in April this year, in the form of its new multiplex at Bangalore’s SBR Horizon mall, leaving five more properties left over from last year.
These five comprise INOX theaters at Tumkur (near Bangalore), Bhilwara, Guwahati, Jaipur and Dhanbad. Together, these account for 19 screens that remain to be added.
All these are at an advanced stage of completion, INOX said: “90% of the work is complete on these screens.”
In addition to the above five carry-over properties, INOX Leisure is also planning to add another five properties this year, taking the total to 11 in all.
Two of the new ones will be located in Gurgaon and one each in Vizag, Patna and Hyderabad.
Together, these five properties will add 25 news screens, taking the total expected screen additions for the current year to 49, including the five screens already inaugurated at SBR Horizon mall last month.
However, said the company, the pace of roll-out for these new properties will depend on how the situation evolves with regard to COVID-19. “Opening of [these] remaining 25 screens will be decided once situation normalizes,” it noted.
The company also reiterated its long-term plan to double its current capacity.
Beyond the 11 properties slotted for opening this year, it has plans to add another 137 properties to take the total number of multiplexes under the INOX chain to 300. This would also double the total number of seats from an estimated 1.55 lakh at the end of the current year to 3.34 lakh when the expansion is complete. However, there is no disclosed time table for these additions.
Quoting third-party reports, the company also projected confidence that the film industry would double in size in the current calendar year (2021) compared to the COVID-19-affected 2020.
It quoted such reports to project an overall revenue size of Rs 15,300 cr for the film industry this year, up from around Rs 7,200 cr in 2020. However, this would still be considerably below the Rs 19,100 cr that the industry generated in the year 2019.
Theaters are again expected to become the No.1 contributor of revenues to the film industry this calendar year, overtaking digital rights.
Last year, revenue generated from digital and app platforms, such as Amazon, Zee5 and Netflix, overtook theatrical revenues for the first time. This was because theatrical revenue fell to around Rs 2,500 cr in 2020 from around Rs 11,500 cr in 2019.
In 2021, theatrical revenues are again expected to rise to Rs 7,500 cr, compared to about Rs 3,500 cr from digital/OTT platforms.
Within the theatrical segment, multiplexes are likely to consolidate their market share due to the collapse of hundreds of small and independent film exhibitors and theaters due to COVID-19 lock-downs.
It is estimated that the COVID-19 lock-down of 2020 forced around 1,000-1,500 independent movie theaters to shut permanently, taking the total number of independent screens to around 5,000.
In comparison, the total number of screens operated by multiplex chains continued to remain stable at around 3,200, despite the lock-down.
The number of small and independent operators could fall further due to the second wave restrictions that have been imposed this year.
Even Inox Leisure was not spared the impact of the lock-down. The company’s revenue fell by 92% to Rs 148 cr for the year ended March 2021. It registered a pretax loss of Rs 446 cr for the financial year, compared to a profit of Rs 129 cr in the preceding financial year.
Out of the Rs 148 cr revenue generated by the company during the entire financial year, Rs 119 cr was generated in the final three months of the year (Jan-Mar 2021).
Given the new lock-down, the company said that it has again approached landlords and mall companies to re-negotiate rents and revenue share agreements.
Most of the film releases planned for the Apr-Jun period have been put off due to the uncertainty, it added.