Our cinema industry, on the rise from warm waters, is certainly changing into a complete entertainment hub for audiences. While it may be the facilitation and extra entertainment avenues and value added services available inside the cinema that attract the audience; a cinema’s potential to generate revenue has multiplied manifold for its owners.
From the basic 35mm cinema scope concept to the modern digital technology and what seemed like a dream at one point in time, i.e. 3D, the cinema industry of Pakistan has conquered it all. It was only a couple of years ago that our privileged strata would talk about movies they have seen on 3D screens abroad and now, this concept has completely jelled in our cinema audiences. The modern Pakistani cinemagoer has accepted the change in the industry with arms wide open and can be seen settled in a three hour movie wearing 3D glasses, a concept that might not have been sworn in any other industry as easily.
When we talk about cinema, we not only refer to a theatre hall, but are talking about a complete source of entertainment that includes food, snacks and good leisure time. Gone are the days when people would want to stand in long queues to get tickets for their favorite blockbusters. Cinemagoers now expect better services and value additions. The industry has been hit with a service orientation competition, which has become the need of the hour as digital screening media and snacks are mostly the same across cinemas nationally or internationally. As the concept of booking tickets over the phone is a highly used practice, modern gadgets and hi-tech machines are now an integral part of this industry and have acted as catalysts in elevating cinegoer expectations. For instance, social media pages of different cinemas are filled with requests for the introduction of internet booking. Also, a number of mobile applications have been introduced for different versions of Android, iOS and Blackberry interfaces. App developers and cinema managements are trying different ways through which clients can book and pay through these applications, although restrictions on eCommerce is a major limitation, locally. Even then, certain cinemas have overcome this by using the cash-on-delivery model, where users book tickets over the internet and pay when tickets are delivered to them.
Recently, the concept of luxury and gold class cinemas has started coming up according to which, a cinema should be an architectural milestone with a grand ambiance. Started by Bahria Town, this eventually led to the making of the first Gold class multiplex. Also, foundations are being laid to introduce screening technologies like VMAX and IMAX, which will become available to cinegoers soon in Pakistan.
On the split side, customers are a great source of idea generation for cinema owners. The audience just does not come for every movie; it is the star power of the main characters or the cast that draws people to it. The genre and storyline comes next, followed by visual and sound effects. Also, cinegoers now usually make it a point to read movie reviews before spending on cinema tickets.
The boom in this entertainment medium has gotten marketers to allocate special budgets to highlight their brands and brand logos in the movies, as well as to sponsor movies and hold red carpet screenings prior to opening days. In line with this trend, the three major spending industries; beverages, cellular service providers and banks are utilizing different strategies to target cinemas, distributors and movie production.
Beverage brands hold a prime share in this industry and are earning massive revenues from exclusive deals allowing cinemas to sell only one cola inside the theatre premises. Cinemas, on the other hand are earning huge amounts of royalty fees to allow such exclusivity. This competition amongst cola brands has become so severe that massive budgets are being placed for every new cinema that is opening up as well as for older cinemas that are turning up huge numbers of cinema audiences. These brands have clearly marked their territories and form alliances with movie distributors prior to movie launches.
The telecom sector is also very strategically active in the cinema business, especially targeting the youth. Recently, a certain initiative saw a telco company distributing hundreds of free movie passes while dealing directly with the distributor without taking cinema management into account. Also, youth packages by different telco brands offer free passes of different movies for which royalty amounts or a certain price gets paid to distributors. These tactics have made cellular service providers indispensible to cinemas.
Credit card machines and alternate payment mechanisms are allowing banks to focus on the cinema industry. A number of financial institutions are offering discounts to their credit card holders in partnership with different cinemas, as well as offering VIP tickets to their exclusive clients.
Even though FMCG and other industries are not as visible in our cinemas and movies at the moment, their presence is expected to be felt soon as international trends indicate. For instance, a number of FMCG brands used in Bollywood movies are significantly present in our local market, while only the off-shore units of such MNC’s are investing in the film through brand placements. Their Pakistani chapters do not promote the film here with as much fervor.
Internationally, including in neighboring states, media houses have set up separate units for brand associations with foreign movie launches as well as local movies being produced. It is important for our own media houses, advertisers and movie producers to realize and incorporate this change which will foster the marketing and media industry while making the cinema industry more lucrative in the process.
To sum it all, the impact of emerging cinemas in Pakistan has been very positive on society, business community and our local entertainment industry. New ideas embedded with technology, service benchmarks, creation of jobs, marketing spaces and above all; international recognition of our redeveloping cinema market has drawn a lot of interest from the foreign and local community. If led properly, we are in for setting up an entertainment industry that will impact film business at international box offices and draw plenty of attention from studios located internationally and their marketing agencies.
Research by M. Usman Zahid Usman is Cinema Marketing Consultant at Ideas Infinity Consultancy