Leaving behind…tamil cinema and the consumers

I love the movies. For movies are the medium that can transport one in to a different world altogether. And I love going to the theatres. The large screen viewing and most importantly the sound effects gives me more high than anything else in this world. OK, next to Filter Kaapi and South Indian food 🙂

I am in Chennai and I want to catch a movie that’s released this weekend. Let’s see what the options are for me:

  • Try to get a ticket in Sathyam – for me, this is the theatre that provides the best movie experience in Chennai. But very hard to get tickets on the opening weekend since I am not the only one who thinks so :). Including the online booking charge, seat selection charges and parking charge (two wheeler) the average ticket price is about 300 for two (2*120 per ticket + 40 booking charge + 10 seat selection + 10 parking). But getting a ticket is next to impossible since there is a huge demand to watch movies at Sathyam from celebrities to politicians to the general public. And Sathyam is the first theatre to open up bookings
  • Devi – This theatre is very close to my heart. I mean, this is the theatre where I watched Speed. A theatre which showed what Dolby and DTS is. On the largest screen projection (till date). I mean, you get in to Devi Paradise and sit in the middle. The way the whole theatre is designed and with the huge screen takes you in to that different world that I spoke about. But then this is a theatre which has the following
    • Power Cut – Yes, if there is a power cut in the area during the show, then there will be a disruption in the movie. You will have one “Yellow Bulb” glowing in the middle of a movie
    • 90’s Projection – I am bound to compare projection quality to Sathyam. At least have a projection quality as close to Inox and PVR? If you can increase your ticket prices, can’t you invest in a digital projector?
    • Hopeless Parking – one of the worst parking facilities in the city and the worst exit a theatre can have. I mean, this is the largest theatre in the city – both Devi and Devi Paradise together can accomodate 2100 people for a single show. And you have an exit in to a single lane at the back side of the theatre. In case of any emergency, it is actually better to stay inside the theatre than getting out. And how much do they charge for a bike parking? A whooping Rs. 20
    • And then there are very normal seats, rest room having a single door entrance, over priced food (for the quality), etc…
  • Despite all those, I still some times visit Devi because she is like your first love. Cant really get rid off 🙂
  • PVR and Inox – they are the ones that are next to Sathyam in terms of the movie experience. The projection quality and sound systems are good but not as great as Sathyam. But since both are in malls, you are bound by the parking rules of the mall and not a theatre. The parking time-slot is not in-line with movie length (for Indian movies). Inox is also famous for having a website which is pretty much useless. It is not just slow (even Sathyam gets slower during any new release)  but is just stupid when you keep getting server errors. PVR is definitely better than Inox in these aspects
  • I don’t even want to talk about theatres / malls like Mayajaal, Abirami and AGS. The thought of these theatres bring in a lot of negative energy in me that its very hard to control the filth coming out of my mouth
  • And then, you have these small theatres all around the city which are not able to attract crowd because of these large multiplexes. But do they have any of the qualities to give a good cinema experience? But their prices? Nothing is less than 95 + taxes. Just go to ticketnew.com and try to reserve in any of the theatres such as Kamala, SSR Pankajam, Sangam, Kasi, etc..And even Abirami Mega Mall. The only exception is AVM Rajeswari which still has ticket prices at around Rs.45

And it doesn’t end there.

  • Mayajaal can price its tickets in its own way – 200, 300 during the first two days of a movie. Rest of the days it depends
  • The online booking of Inox is crap. But let’s say you want to try booking in person. You got to use the mall parking which you will end up paying anyhow even if you don’t get tickets in person

For some detailed analysis of what’s the ground reality of the theatres and malls, please read this, this, this, this and this.

I, as a consumer, would like to see the Viswaroopam DTH issue only from that background. For a family of four, if I need to catch a good movie in a theatre, the expense would easily touch around Rs. 1000. And with that you don’t even get a good movie experience. So why will I come to theatres? All these theatres which are doing business with the Rs. 120 ticket pricing are doing because of the floating young population in the city. For a couple working in an IT company, may be it doesn’t matter or probably they don’t realize about it.  But it is not a matter of affordability but about the value for money. And the main factor that we forget here is  that it’s for entertainment. You have to get entertained not stressed out.

Note:If you look at Bangalore, the ticket prices are even higher. Tickets are at least Rs.150 on a week day and on week ends its about Rs. 200. That way it is better in TamilNadu at least. But that can’t be a justification for not providing value for money. TamilNadu has more number of theatres – it ranks second in India, next to Andhra. So the volume is huge and there is a potential to make good amount of money if you do the business right

As I said earlier, I have a huge liking for the movies and the experience a theatre provides. It is completely indistinguishable from watching a movie online, TV, laptop or for that matter a Home Theatre. But that’s only for movies which have that technological marvel. I mean, movies like Life of Pi, Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, Die Hard, Enthiran, Sivaji, Yudham Sei are amazing to be seen in the big screen (Why Yudham Sei in that list? Because of the background score). The impact that it can create in a theatre with good sound system.

But then what about movies like Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum, Pizza, Attakathi, Boss Engira Baskaran, OK OK? They are casual movies right? I am OK to see them on TV or online. I am willing to pay and watch them. An year or so back, I still had the interest to catch every movie in theatre and in the first weekend itself. But not anymore. I am inclined to see movies in Sathyam only and to get a ticket there is pretty difficult. But I am willing to wait. I am willing to wait for even couple of weeks and enjoy the movie wholly instead of catching up in a useless theatre.

Here are few points that I want to raise

  • When a big star’s movie is released, all the theatres are going ahead and buying them. They are not willing to take other movies even if they may be good. How do the theatre owners justify that? For example, when Billa-2 was released, “Naan-E” did not find any screens. But later when people realized Billa-2’s box office, the theatres started giving more screens to “Naan-E”. This includes Sathyam Cinemas as well. As a consumer I am OK with this. But you got to remember that there is a producer / distributor behind “Naan-E” as well. Who is going to cover their losses?
  • If the answer to the above question is “Big star’s movies have big opening and we can do business”, then you gotta let Kamal do his business. If he is not asking for any Minimum Guarantee and as a producer if he is willing to take the risk of releasing the movie ahead in DTH, what is your problem? If people do not come to theatres because the movie is a flop, then give more screens for Alex Pandian and “Kanna Laddu” and run them. But you cannot stop Kamal from releasing it in DTH
  • I read couple of other point of view about this issue here and here. The sad thing about that is there is nowhere consumer is in picture. Like producers want to be happy, distributors want to be happy, theatre wants to be happy. But what about us? Who cares man? This is what you get here. If you want, you watch it. Otherwise shut up
  • Abirami Ramanthan seems to be interested in solving all theatre owners problems. I am just wishing that he can spend few minutes every day to think about removing the “Mall” from Abirami Mega Mall, for it is not one
  • Somehow, every time I think of Tamil movie’s state, the movie Aaranya Kaandam figures in it. For it is one of the awesome movies ever made in Tamil. But what happened to the producer and director? Because of the then government which had a media house, the producer (SPB Charan) bleeded losses. The media house wanted to distribute the movie and the producer restrained. Because of that the movie never got released for close to 6 months (that’s the story I hear). The movie released only in few screens and was taken out of theatres within couple of weeks. The producer never had any money to market the film and eventually ended up selling an audio lab (Kodandapani Audio Labs) that’s next to my house. There is a multi-storey apartment coming up there. How do the theatre owners justify this?

If you have this new medium, movies like Aaranya Kaandam, Ammavin Kaipesi, Neerparavai, etc…may even directly release in DTH if the theatres are busy releasing big star movies. Now, with that, Tamil movies would be better. If these movies get more audience, naturally every other director would be forced to provide good movies and not crap.

I am somehow not able to digest the fact that Siruthai was made a hit and these good movies don’t even run for few days. And now looks like Alex Pandiyan would follow suit (I have nothing against Alex but just that the trailer suggest the movie to be in lines of Siruthai and Saguni. If it’s a good movie I have no qualms about it).

The theatre owners are just scared that there is a new competitor for them in the way of DTH operators. But they are wrong. Either they are unaware or they refuse to accept the fact that Netflix in India is not long way. But then will I watch Avatar or Hobbit or Iron man 3 in Netflix or at Sathyam? I would any day come and watch it in Sathyam. And Viswaroopam too.

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