Our focus this year is to develop 100+ screens, one blockbuster film and offer personalised services: Amit Sharma, MD, Miraj Entertainment

India's youngest player in the multiplex space, Miraj Cinemas, recently celebrated the achievement of developing 100 screens in India. In an exclusive conversation, MD, Miraj Entertainment, Amit Sharma, shares the journey of the company, challenges faced, aspirations and the focus on film production in the future.

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Film distribution and exhibition has been a game-changer for many films in recent years. With a limited number of screens in the country and an increasing number of films, production houses today are facing troubles with regards to screening their film, especially on selected dates. On the other hand, the existing multiplex players in the market are trying to build or acquire more screens, thereby develop a firm grip in the market and boost the film business. One such player today is Miraj Cinemas, which has recently hit the milestone of functioning 100 screens in India.

In an exclusive interaction with Mumbai Live, Managing Director of Miraj Entertainment , Amit Sharma, shares the journey of the firm, challenges faced, aspirations and the focus on film production in the future. 

Starting the conversation with the journey of Miraj Entertainment, Sharma said, "The start for Miraj was in Ajmer, in 2012, but we always wanted to go PAN India, and we were the last one to enter the sector. We are the youngest multiplex operator in the country. The first three years was to sell ourselves in the market and eventually we opened to more number of screens. Today, with five years of hard work, we are now focusing on bringing more number of screens to our portfolio. The biggest focus will be to develop 225 screens we have in the pipeline." 

Players in the market today are converting the existing single screens, thereby refurbishing them for the audience. Talking about his understanding of developing the 'Single screens vs. Multiplex' market, he said, "I believe in the modern cinema business, and it works. There are players who are offering a differential movie watching experience. There is immense potential in the space. We have done this in 2014, in Thakur Cinemas, Kandivali (Mumbai) and recently we refurbished a screen in Gurgaon. We will focus on packaging this in the near future." 

Today Miraj has screens functioning in around 15 states, and the company focuses on expanding its reach and presence in some more states across the country. Adding to the thought, he said, "We are keen on all the states, but in this year (2019-20), we will be entering in Bihar, Kerala, and Orissa as new territories. Besides this, we will strengthen in all existing states. Cinema is a microcinema concept, and people want to watch films within a 3-5km radius. Therefore, in Mumbai, we are focused on catering to places like Vasai, Virar, Dombivli and some others, keeping the consumption pattern in mind. There is a need for watching a movie there. Besides this, FnB consumption is good."

A few months back, the movie-going audience in the country had complained about the price of food available in the cinemas. Acting upon the complaint, the court had asked the cinema houses and multiplexes to allow outside food. However, this judgement received mixed reactions from both the multiplex owners and some members from the audience. Commenting about his thoughts, and allowing the same at Miraj, he said, "If you look at the business model, most of the multiplexes earn only about 15-20 per cent margin from the sales, and if we are not allowed to make such small profits, it will not be beneficial for us to run at large scale at multiplexes, keeping the other operational costs in mind. The price of the real estate, electricity etc. is quite high."

With increasing competition among the existing players, companies today are inclining towards offering bundled or value-add packages, thereby ensuring a sale of a movie ticket. Firms such as PayTM, ICICI, PVR etc. are either offering add-on services or privilege cards to customers, through which they market their product through a differentiated channel. Sharing his thought on providing the same for his valuable customers at Miraj, he said, "There are payment gateways and applications which have made lives easier. We have started services at our end, where we ensure a hassle-free experience. Besides, we are associated with the aggregators for our ticketing services. But what I feel we will achieve this year is offering services with a human touch, thereby offering a thorough experience. Our end user will enjoy a personalised service."

The team at Miraj also known for film production with offering like Irrfan Khan's Madaari, and has Neil Nitin Mukesh's Bypass Road in the pipeline. On being questioned about the group's interest in the kind of movies the team wishes to produce, Amit said, "We constantly listen to scripts and narrations, and by being in both the sides of the business - exhibition and production - we understand the market quite well. As a production house, we show interest in producing films related to horror, kids and thriller genres, especially the films which are fresh and not adapted. As passive producers, we let the creative minds work on their own, thereby buying once confidence and stories. Further, as a production house, we are open to films in regional languages. Having said this, we always invest only once we know the respective markets. On the digital front, we have a platform called Miraj Miracle, where are constantly looking at supporting musicians and writers wanting to contribute to the web-series space. To sum it up, 2019 is an exciting year for us, where we are focusing on 100+ screens and one blockbuster film."

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