Kolkata: News of the merger of PVR with INOX to create India’s largest multi-screen player has led to Kolkata’s cinema-buffs wondering what changes this move might result in. The availability of alternative film content and even non-veg food on the menu are some of the questions that regular cine-goers who have just returned to theatres post the Covid-induced slump are asking.
Unlike PVR, INOX properties stick to a strict vegetarian menu. Advertising professional Devlina Banerji is wondering if this merger will mean not getting her favourite chicken sandwiches and kathi roll alongside a tub of popcorn and a cup of tea. “I am hoping to enjoy some local fare instead of a censored menu at the theatres,” she added.
In the multiplex history of Kolkata, movie-buffs had seen INOX acquire Fame. All the existing properties of Fame were renamed as INOX. Currently, INOX has 12 properties in larger Kolkata while PVR has four. Once the merger takes place, all these 16 existing properties will operate under the brand name of PVR INOX. With the popularity of OTT platforms, getting audiences to the theatres was a big worry for many exhibitors. The recent success of some Hindi movies has made exhibitors happy. But for the average movie-goer in Kolkata, this merger has thrown up questions regarding availability of interesting content. Advertising professional and song writer Sugata Guha said quite a few international movies are not given a run in the city. “To commemorate its 50th anniversary, ‘The Godfather’ re-released in some Indian cities but gave Kolkata a miss. Will Kolkata have a larger basket of international releases post this merger?” he wondered.
Director Indranil Roy Chowdhury said that barring the southern language markets which has its own long-standing history, Marathi cinema is the only regional independent cinema in India that does good business at plexes. This, he pointed out, didn’t happen overnight. “For a ‘Sairat’ to do well, there was a 10-year-long history where the Maharashtra government had a system of blocking 50% prime time screens only for Marathi cinema. They operated on a level-playing field. If the Bengal government does the same now, there will be some chance of Bengali cinema generating big money at the plexes,” he said.
According to producer Firdausul Hasan, multiplexes were originally meant to give encouragement to meaningful and alternative cinema. “That’s why the government used to even give some rebates to multiplexes for doing this. Today, this rebate does not exist. Now both INOX and PVR have similar policies for screening Bengali movies in Kolkata. Both prefer non-Bengali films that rake in the moolah. For makers like us, investing in content-driven Bengali cinema, it would be good if the merger helps in giving more space to our kind of films,” he said.