Theatres will bounce back again: PVR CMD Ajay Bijli
In a candid chat arranged as part of Express Expressions, Ajay Bijli, the Chairman of PVR Limited, addressed many issues plaguing the entertainment industry, including the ever-rising OTT threat
In a candid chat arranged as part of Express Expressions, a series of webinars organised by The New Indian Express, Ajay Bijli, the Chairman of PVR Limited, addressed many issues plaguing the entertainment industry, including the ever-rising OTT threat. He began by expressing that the OTT fixation may be ‘overrated’. “The present situation is an aberration. We haven’t faced something like this in a 100 years. While I enjoy films and web series on OTT platforms, I’m disappointed that films made for theatres are being released for the television,” he said, and went on to compare the present status of theatres to an injured athlete. “Theatres now are like injured athletes, who have to take a break before returning. Theatres will very much be a part of the game.” He also shared that the pressure on producers is not lost on him. “I am sensitive to the needs of producers who are selling their films to OTTs. However, in the long run, I see them returning to the theatres, as only this will allow them to fully monetise their content.” To make this point, he cited the examples of films like Kabir Singh, Bala and Article 15. “They would not have got their collections, had they got an OTT release. Big budget films too, like Sooryavanshi, Radhe or Coolie No 1, need theatrical revenue to turn over a profit,” he said.
Ajay did not make much of the uncertainty looming over the future of the entertainment industry. “Theatres will return to normalcy between June and July, according to my predictions. The government is opening retail outlets in phase 1, and right now, we are pushing for theatres to be opened in the next phase,” he shared. Shooting, he added, would commence after that. “Content flow is crucial for exhibitors like me. If shooting doesn’t resume soon, even OTT platforms can’t survive. I am in touch with the Producer’s Guild, and it’s only a matter of time before shooting is allowed to resume.”
Ajay also predicted that the theatrical experience would undergo some changes, after the lockdown is lifted. “Our priority is to restrict touchpoints. The box office will be digitised completely. As for food counters, we will install glass walls to separate staff and customers,” he said. The seating system too will undergo a change. “Our software will leave two seats in between couples or families in order to ensure social distancing. There will also be a buffer time in between shows, in order to avoid crowding in the lobby.”
He reiterated that the magic of theatres will not fade away. “Cinema has survived the test of time. It has crossed the world war, the great depression, and the Spanish flu. Theatres will bounce back again; I trust my audience.”