MUMBAI: Here’s the next change at the box office: paperless entry to the cinema hall.
The box office as we know it may soon be a thing of the past as movie exhibitors across the country led by PVR Cinemas and Cinepolis in the era of paperless ticketing. Consumers increasingly prefer to make movie bookings online or on apps, in the same manner as airline passengers. Instead of a paper ticket, they get a Quick Response Code generated on their smartphones, which consumers get scanned at the entry point before taking their pre-selected seats. No ticket stubs. No printouts.
Cinema halls are now preparing to go digital all the way — to generate additional revenue, provide convenience and become environment friendly.
“The response to the online-plus-ticket less experience has been very good across our 90 cinemas where we have introduced it,” said Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director at PVR, which gets 35% of its bookings from its website or through aggregators such as bookmyshow.com investment works out to about Rs 1 lakh per screen, according to Meenakshi Vajpai, chief information officer at PVR, which pioneered the QR code in the country. Cinema halls are counting on more people using their phones to transact on the internet.
“As the telecom infrastructure develops, the entertainment business will undergo a tectonic shift in consumption patterns,” said Jehil Thakkar, head M&E at KPMG.
It also helps that such consumers are tech savvy, book more seats and generally choose higher-value tickets. PVR’s online bookings contributed 42% of the chain’s box office revenue, including the convenience fees charged for such transactions, Vajpai said.
“We believe in taking the box office to our customers and not the other way around,” said Alok Tandon, CEO of Inox Leisure. “We have seen an online growth of 35-40% year-on-year over the last three years, while in the smaller towns, it is approximately 30-35%. We are working on a paperless entry, which we will be launching in the next few weeks.” In the tech cities of Bengaluru and Hyderabad, close to 50% of the theatre-goers buy virtual tickets. Mumbai and Delhi/National Capital Region have picked up pace in the past few months, as have towns such as Bhilai and Latur.
“The growth of online ticket booking has been very strong in metros and non-metros alike,” said Devang Sampat, chief strategy officer at Cinepolis. “The digital divide between tier-1 and tier-2 cities is gradually vanishing with the increase in mobile phones and internet connectivity.”
According to Ashish Saksena, COO cinemas at bookmyshow.com, online bookings doubled in 2014-15 from a year earlier even though the number of people visiting cinema halls declined in this period. “This growth in online space has been propelled more due to the increased penetration in cities beyond the metros,” Saksena said. “This increase in smaller towns and cities was achieved by coming up with innovative campaigns and promotions to increase use of credit cards.” Carnival Films, which runs the Carnival cinema chain and acquired Big Cinemas, is gearing up for the next stage after tier-2 and tier-3 towns contributed to growth in online booking.
“Tickets are the main source of consumption of paper, so ‘ticketless’ is the goal we are aiming at,” said PV Sunil, CEO and director at Carnival, which has set up remote booking counters. “In some of the smaller towns, apart from our box office at the property, we have set up such remote counters where people can walk in and book tickets, especially for people who do not have proper internet connectivity. This has been a big success.”
For the shift to complete paperless ticketing, there is a hurdle: the rules need to change. The government requires all cinema halls to print tickets that are preapproved and stamped, with one copy each for the government, the company and the consumer. A representation has been made to the government to replace the current system with online reports of ticket sales. Apart from revenue and convenience considerations, movie exhibitors are agreed that ticketless bookings curb the consumption of paper and help save the environment.
“With introduction of ticketless entry at all centres in the near future and projecting this for a year, we would save 13,00,000 sheets of A4 paper every year, which would be a step towards a greener world,” said Sampat of Cinepolis. “It is a paradigm shift in thinking but we have to make people environmentally conscious. Along with reducing our carbon footprint, we are making things more convenient for consumers,” said Bijli of PVR.