Carnival Group, an established name in Tier II and Tier III cities, is known in India for offering a magnificent movie-going experience. Their company, Carnival Cinemas, has successfully shattered the myth that watching a movie in a multiplex is a privilege.
In an exclusive conversation, COO Carnival Cinemas, Saurabh Saxena, highlights how cinemas have become the most important pillar of retail establishments like high-end shopping malls and changing the dynamics of retail.
What locations are you planning to expand to? How are you going about consolidating your presence in Tier II and Tier III cities?
We are one of the largest multiplex chains in the country. Presently, we have 324 screens spread across 118 locations in 88 cities. Out of which, we have 240 screens in Tier II and Tier III cities and rest 84 screens in Tier I and metro cities.
We have aggressive expansion plans for small cities of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. We will soon be launching at places like Khandwa, Ratlam and few other Tier II and Tier III .
What is your preferred expansion location – malls or high-streets? Since both are at a nascent stage in Tier II and Tier III cities, what is your strategy for these areas?
We are really not looking at malls at the moment, because for Tier II and Tier III we have different projects and plans. Finding a suitable mall location is challenging in small towns as the number of malls is really less there. We are largely focusing on small shopping centres. It can be a standalone building with reasonable food options and easy access through all modes of transportation. To be present only in a mall is not our strategy as of now. We are looking forward to expand our presence on high-streets and populated markets. Presently, locations like adjoining areas of railway stations, and universities are our focus.
Are you also planning to launch superplexes in the near future?
We are planning to launch 8-9 screen projects shortly. Most likely, these projects will come up in Tier I cities or metros. However, we will also continue to focus on Tier II and Tier III cities for further expansions.
How do you ensure price parity on tickets as you move to different cities?
As compared to other multiplex players, tickets at Carnival Cinemas are economically priced due to our presence in Tier II and Tier III cities. Our Tier II price point starts from Rs 80, whereas for Tier 1 and metros, our range starts from Rs 200.
These days especially in metro cities, cinema has become an inseparable part of the retail mall establishment. Who do you think benefits from this – the mall or the cinema?
A retail mall is a composition of shopping, food and entertainment. If you abolish any of these then the mall establishment will not survive. Of course, the entertainment property like cinema also gets benefited due to the increased footfall. Having said that, I would also like to mention that cinema is one component which survives beyond seasons. Cinema runs on all 365 days, so garnering footfall is easier for a cinema as compared to other retail establishments.
Despite being such an important pillar, why don’t we see cinema halls as anchors in malls? Do mall developers need to change their perspective?
Being the biggest footfall driver I would definitely like to see myself as an anchor. Cinema is also a place where maximum advertising and branding is done. And, if I operate as an anchor, I would get more opportunities to showcase the cinema better. Being in an anchor position, I can offer partnerships with other components of mall to create a win-win situation. As of now, cinema operators are tying up with anchor stores to run various customer-centric schemes like loyalty programs etc. I think time is not far when developer will gauge the business potential in such an arrangement.
How many more screens you are planning to open in FY 16-17? Any new acquisition or merger in pipeline?
Organically, we should be able to open 150 more screens in coming 15 months. We are looking to acquire a brand having a good presence.
Share some insights on your production and distribution business?
Carnival Motion Pictures has already made 4 Malayalam movies. We have also ventured into Bollywood and are looking forward to expanding this vertical.