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Sanjeev Bijli: 'It was about creating the right environment where people would be comfortable going to a multiplex'

If you are an avid moviegoer in India, the ‘Bijlis’ behind PVR Cinemas are hard to miss. The Bijli brothers, in their pursuit of passion for cinema, introduced the concept of multiplexes to the millions of movie–crazy Indians, making the theatre one of the coolest places to hang out. We engaged in a tete-a-tete with Sanjeev Bijli.

As the first-of-its-kind multiplex in India, PVR Cinemas, changed the way India watched movies forever. We caught up with the movie baron on PVR's journey in India, and the plans going forward.

What is new in the PVR universe?
In the last one year, we’ve launched PVR Phoenix in Lower Parel, Mumbai. We introduced Luxe cinemas there, which is a slightly higher version of PVR Gold cinemas with fabulous recliner seats, service on seats and an amazing open kitchen with menus designed by Sarah Todd. We have opened 27 screens in the last quarter and some of these have been in new places as well. We have opened our first screen in Guwahati, our first screen in Amritsar, in Gorakhpur and Karnal. We have also opened a 10-screen complex in Chennai , so we have strengthened our position in Chennai. We have also opened Preston in Hyderabad. So, it’s been a mixed bag where we have openedour first screen in some cities and solidified our position in others. So,that’s what has been keeping us busy in the last three months.

You have also launched Home.
Oh, yes! Home is a space we have created next to Director’s Cut in PVR, Vasant Kunj. It’s a membership club where patrons have the opportunity to come and enjoy non-cinematic entertainment. We host jazz evenings and stand-up comedy and once a week we have a movie night as well. There are not too many jazz bands in Delhi, so our patrons really appreciate a place that has been done up well, which is comfortable and which has some of the most amazing bands come in and perform.

Please tell us about PVR Screening Room.
The Screening Room is a concept that originated in Mumbai. We started this in February this year and the idea was to invite eminent directors to come and present a film of their choice. The screening is then followed by an open Q&A. We have been getting a phenomenal response to it. I think this is the first opportunity of its kind where movie buffs have the chance to sit across their favourite directors and talk about the film and learn about their motivations in makingthe film. It has been a resounding success. We have had these screenings with Anurag Kashyap, Anand Rai and Sriram Raghavan. In Delhi, we did the first Screening Room with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.

PVR Cinemas have completely reinvented the movie-going experience. What were some of the inceptive thoughts that crystallised into this concept?
I think it was a combination of two factors. The first being the deplorable state of cinemas at that time across the country which were going down in terms of quality and service. This was also the time when there was a very heavy e-tax levied on the industry, up to almost 60 per cent in some states. There was a ceiling on ticket prices and there was no way that any cinema was making any money.
It really was a terrible time for cinemas. But at the same time what was happening in the West was multiplexes. They had realised that single screens were a deathknell and that you needed to give viewers a choice of movies in order to get them back into movie theatres. That 
was the starting point of launching the first multiplex in the country. It was about creating the right environment where people would
be comfortable going to a multiplex and I think that was what revived the cinema-going attendance.

 

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