Theatre of dreams
Backed by Book My Show and PVR Cinemas, Vkaao, an on-demand cinema service, is looking to bring the best of international cinema to Indian screens
There are multiple reasons why we may miss a film on the big screen. Sometimes, the shows aren’t convenient. Sometimes, the film may not even make it to your country. I, for one, have always dreamed of catching the classics in a theatre. All this has made Vkaao, India’s first on-demand platform, an interesting alternative for cinephiles. The company, launched in 2017, has now launched a new initiative that will bring the best of international cinema to India. Titled Vkaao Gems, the initiative has garnered good response with regional screenings of Cannes favourites, Capernaum and Shoplifters. Vaibhav Lal, Co-founder & CEO, Vkaao, is gratified with the response and elaborates on future plans.
Excerpts from a conversation:
How did the idea of creating an on-demand theatre service come up?
Despite today’s on-demand world, a film aficionado did not have the power to choose a film that they would like to watch in theatres. We introduced theatre-on-demand as a service that allows users to choose the film that they would like to watch, at a screening time of their choice and the theatre of their choice.
Tell us about the process of making the desired film available for screening.
Customers can choose any film that is available on our platform to create a screening at a preferred PVR cinema/theatre, day, date & time slot. Every theatre has a minimum threshold number of seats that need to be booked in order to have a successful show. Once a customer fulfils the minimum seat threshold, they get to watch the film at their preferred PVR theatre. Apart from this when we curate shows, we tap into BookMyShow and PVR’s massive customer analysis data to understand which genres work best.
What criteria dictates your choice of films?
Every customer has a different taste when it comes to watching films in a theatre. One may prefer to rewatch a mainstream blockbuster while another may prefer an art-house film. When it comes to entertainment, especially with films, there are no fixed criteria that determines the addition of a film to our library. As long as the film has a theatrical censor certificate along with the India rights, we are happy to have it onboard.
Has the partnership with BookMyShow enhanced your visibility?
Absolutely, there is no second thought on that. As our parent brand, BookMyShow’s marketing analytics and vast customer database help us reach the most relevant audiences and cinephiles across India. The incisive data and insight help us curate a selection of niche and exclusive films.
Tell us about Vkaao Gems.
There has always been a demand for different and alternate content in Indian cinema. With the recent success of content-oriented films, the need to have regular releases of foreign language films became inevitable. As its name suggests, Vkaao Gems, in the true essence, brings the jewels of world cinema to a theatre near you. A lot of film festivals showcase good and rich cinematic content that hardly ever reaches public theatres and cinema screens. Customers have to wait until such films are made available on an OTT platform. Vkaao Gems hopes to break that barrier. These are not just foreign language films; they are also award-winning films.
How has the response been for screenings so far?
The response for Vkaao Gems has been overwhelming. While it is too early to track whole trends, Shoplifters ran successfully in cinemas. The high occupancy for the film across cities resulted in an extended screening for the film which was originally slated for just one week only. The film’s business for Vkaao Gems has been twice that of normal screening, and we look forward to strong growth with our future releases. International content on Vkaao has been in great demand, not just in metros but also in tier 2 cities.
How do you arrive at the number of people needed for a screening? Some screenings seem to get confirmed no matter the number.
Over the years, we have built a database of average occupancy across different theatres. Based on our intelligence, we set the minimum threshold number of seats required to confirm a screening. Some screenings are already confirmed like those for Vkaao Gems since we release these films in theatres with a traditional approach.
With an overseas partner, you have also taken regional content to other countries. What has that been like?
Our partnership with Demand Film is recent and they have started listing some of our Indian films on their platform. The initial response has been encouraging and we are hopeful of a strong audience reception across international markets.
How do you see Vkaao expanding?
Content has always been king. As the number of films releasing each year continues to rise significantly, we continue to remain in touch with studios and production houses to get them on board with their content, once films have completed their theatrical run. We are confident of increasing this number significantly going forward.
In terms of increase in the number of locations, we are available across all PVR theatres as also Cinemax & SPI Cinemas in India. This coupled with the online reach to millions of customers available through BookMyShow across tier 1 and 2 cities, gives us the confidence that as the number of screens and theatres increase, so will our reach.