While the first IMAX theatre opened in 2001 at Wadala in Mumbai, the entertainment technology corporation known for high quality and immersive motion picture experience, has not been able to succeed in India due to its lack of presence. “We only had two commercial theatres open in all of India — IMAX BIG Cinemas in Mumbai and Prasads IMAX in Hyderabad,” says Richard Gelfond, CEO, IMAX Corporation. Though, now the brand that has its presence in 52 countries, is looking at India as a market that holds tremendous potential. On his recent trip to India, Gelfond chats about IMAX’s revamped growth strategy in India, the technological upgrades and partnering with Yash Raj Films’ to bring out Dhoom 3 in IMAX format.
Since 2001, you’ve had only two commercial theatres running in India. Are you planning to expand on the exhibition side?
Yes, by next March, we will open seven theatres in India and by the end of next year, we should have around 10-15 running. The economics are such that one can’t really break even unless and until one opens atleast 10 theatres. To give you an analogy, in China, in 2009, we had 13 theatres in the whole country. In five years, we expanded to 250 (100 open and 150 contracted to open). Though it might not happen that quickly or dramatically in India, in five years, we hope to set up 50 theatres in India.
Why is it a good time to expand your business in India?
It is a great time to get into the business because you are going to see a very rapid increase in multiplex cinemas fuelled by the growth of the middle class disposable incomes. One of the issues right now is high real-estate prices and low ticket prices. As incomes start to rise, you will see an increase in ticket prices which will enable higher production costs and bigger investment in movies.
What is the growth strategy that you’ve planned to attain the count of 50 theatres in five years?
Stand-alone theatres are not economically viable as you do not get to share ticket booths or the food and beverage section. We intend to partner with qualified operators, who know how to market their theatres well. For example, by March, the biggest screen of PVR at High Street Phoenix complex in Lower Parel, Mumbai will use IMAX technology. We are partnering with SPI cinemas to open