Multiplexes that were hit hard by pandemic is slowly coming back to life, thanks to blockbusters that bring viewers to the hall.
On April 14, KGF 2, the much-awaited movie, was released worldwide and in the Nepali halls as well. The Kannada-Hindi dubbed movie came with a bang in Nepal, with back-to-back house full shows until four in the morning, however, people were still waiting for weeks to get their tickets. The release of the popular movies from South India not only excited the moviegoers but also the hall operators, once shattered by the endless closer of business following the Covid outbreak. Cinema halls were the first to close down and the last to reopen during Covid waves, which caused the problem of keeping their business afloat. However, after the release of Spider-Man- No Way Home and RRR, QFX, and Big Movies, observing massive demands of moviegoers, they sold tickets directly by stopping booking with people luring to the big screen.
Movie halls finally got a break from the several rounds of closer from February this year. QFX and Big Movies, the most popular multiplex brands among that which were once battling about survival, have slowly started to receive moviegoers with the release of popular movies like KGF, Pushpa, RRR, Spider-Man, and Kabadi Kabadi. The multiplexes are now hoping to get their business to a pre-pandemic level.
Deepesh Sharma, CEO of Big Movies, shares that the business was slow at first, and it started picking up with the release of awaited movies such as Spider-Man No Way Home, RRR, KGF-Chapter 2, and Kabaddi Kabaddi 4.
He shares that the situation was grimmer in the initial phase of reopening. We even screened movies with only two people watching, as people hesitated to come to our hall due to the fear of pandemics. The number was around 2-5 % in the first phase of operation. However, people are coming back, gradually with the number of Covid cases declining and the release of popular movies, he adds.
Similarly, Tripti Giri, brand manager of QFX, shares that initially, people did not want to be in closed spaces, but now things seem to be normalized as people also missed watching movies during Covid. There is a big crowd of people wanting to watch movies now, she adds.
However, QFX and Big Movies are continuing to follow Covid protocols of wearing a mask and using sanitizer for the safety of their customers. Likewise, both the multiplexes have switched to digital menus and modes of payment.
Sharma shares that digital has become the new normal. The number of people using the site for movie tickets has grown immensely post-pandemic, he adds.
In the meantime, not all the halls survived the impact of Covid and some of the halls were forced to close their screening business forever. Team Quest Pvt. Ltd. decided to discontinue the franchise agreement with three theatres-Jai Nepal, Kumari, and Pokhara Cineplex, and QFX is no longer a part of their operation.
We have received a lot of inquiries from customers. However, QFX is now focused on multiplex in mall or shopping complex settings rather than standalone theatres, Giri adds.
Big Movies, which had 60-80 % of occupancy before the pandemic, is now observing around 40 % occupancy. The number was higher than the pre-pandemic level during the release of RRR, KFG, and Kabadi Kabadi-4. However, the number is not similar to other releases, Sharma shares, adding that before the pandemic, popular movies used to last for as much as 30-50 days which now don't cross three weeks.
For both Big Movies and QFX, tickets, food, advertisements along with special screenings, and hall booking events are the key sources of revenue. While the number of ticket sales is growing gradually, advertisements on the screens of both multiplexes have declined immensely.
Giri shares that at QFX, ticket and food sales are up during major releases. However, advertisement revenue has gone down, she adds.
Likewise, Sharma shares that advertisements have declined due to the instability of movie screen time and governments' decision to close the halls on multiple occasions. Earlier, we used to receive many inquiries for advertisements, unfortunately, it has gone down after the Covid outbreak. It will take time for companies to get back to us, Sharma shares.
QFX and Big Movies are located in the prime malls in Nepal, adding both crowd footfall and revenue to the malls. Big Movies has three screens at City Center with a combined seating capacity of 887.
We bring in more than 40 % of the audience to City Center. The people coming for the movie contribute to the parking, food courts, and apparel stores, Sharma adds.
Likewise, Giri shares that good movie content brings a lot of footfall to the mall. We see that footfall to the mall vs. movies is directly proportional.
Since it is an entertainment business, people tend to spend their leisure time shopping and watching movies. So hall and mall settings boost each other. Taking Labim Mall as an example, the mall reopened initially without movie halls. The average footfall increased by about 30% after the theatre reopened, she adds.
Similarly, hall operators have been observing several changes brought by Covid in the cinema watching experience, which include masks inside halls.
Likewise, she adds that QFX is dedicated to a more customer-focused approach and has majorly invested in customer service.
Similarly, Giri shares that phone bookings and reservations are discontinued at QFX (mainly in the inside valley). It is so that we can push our customers to a more technical pathway of app and website use, she adds.
In the meantime, Sharma shares that people lately in Nepal have started to check movie reviews on social media and IMDB ratings before buying movie tickets. Likewise, moviegoers are taking on their social media handles to share their movie experiences. He adds that it has made an impact on movie screening time and audience footfall.
Similarly, like other sectors, multiplexes in Nepal are facing challenges to keep up with the business growth. QFX particularly is affected by ROI, investments and banking, and import restrictions.
In addition, a drop in marketing budget/revenue and fewer advertisement interests are other challenges that we are currently going through. It is leading the team to make key decisions for changes, Giri adds.
Similarly, Sharma adds that the rising inflation and keeping up the ticket prices in such a situation have been challenging for Big Movies. The prices of several essential goods, including edible oil, and petroleum products inclined rapidly, while the ticket price at Big Movies is similar, to what it was three years ago. Inflation is rising, but we are yet to recover from the losses caused by the pandemic. It's hard to keep up with the cost, he adds.
However, multiplexes have an ecosystem of distributors, actors, producers, cast and crew, advertisers, and vendors that ultimately provide a product for screening. Inflation has affected all the aspects of movie screening.
However, QFX and Big Movies maintain standards in tickets and foods through various vendor relations.