Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, speaks to Bulbul Sharma about Vkaao, a theatre-on-demand platform that allows audiences to choose films they wish to be screened.
Q. Tell us about the theatre-on-demand platform, Vkaao, which is being jointly run by PVR Pictures and BookMyShow.
A. The concept of bringing the first theatre-on-demand platform to India came into the picture to provide movie-goers a fresh and disruptive medium, which gives them complete control of their movie watching experience at theatres. It allows them to select their preferred movie along with the location, date and time of the screening at any theatre of their choice. This novel approach to movie-going is why Vkaao is being considered as an exciting alternative to the conventional way of watching movies at theatres. Vkaao’s USP lies in its focus on leveraging state-of-the-art technology in order to create a social, crowd-sourced movie-going experience and to add value for all key stakeholders.
India’s movie culture is diverse and so is its audience in numerous ways, and these dynamics are ever-evolving. To become the consumer-preferred choice, a brand needs to enhance its offerings. Vkaao is an apt alternative for movie-goers as under one roof a consumer gets to pick movies from across genres and language. The Vkaao library enables a patron to choose from 600-650 odd films including Hollywood, Bollywood and regional content.
Q. How does Vkaao work exactly?
A. If one wants to watch a particular movie at a theatre and the said movie is no longer running at any theatre near you, the Vkaao app and website lets you create a movie screening at a theatre of your choice, and at your preferred time and date. This screening will then be made available on the platform for other Vkaao users to join. If enough people pay up for the screening, you will get to watch your favorite movie on a big screen… We also offer an option to choose screen formats to the audience.
Q. How popular is the theatre-on-demand format in India?
A. The uniqueness of this kind of medium lies in offering a community movie-watching experience to viewers. People prefer content on demand. It also gives independent filmmakers a platform to release their movies in marquee cinema screens such as PVR Cinemas. In addition to this, BookMyShow’s large database and strong analytical capabilities have helped pool new ideas for Vkaao especially for curated shows. Vkaao enables the screening of curated movies that otherwise do not screen during the time, including paid previews, curated film festivals on the occasion of Children’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Women’s Day, National Sports Day among others, and also independent film releases. The response received over the past two years has been encouraging and the audience for such content has only been growing exponentially.
Q. Since Vkaao’s inception, what are the major changes that have been observed in terms of what the audiences are demanding and what they expect from movies?
A. So far, Vkaao has released over 210 films that include 38% Hollywood, 47% Bollywood and 15% of regional content across 2017 and 2018. A key trend observed with respect to content is that patrons are keener to watch niche independent movies, regional content, old Bollywood classics and Hollywood animation. Vkaao played a significant role in the success contribution of some of the most acclaimed films of 2018, like Village Rockstars, S Durga and Pahuna among others.
People expect more curated events, and Vkaao scouts for specially curated content. For example, a “Best of Oscars” during Oscar time, or, say, “Amitabh Festival” around the superstar’s birthday. Last year we got an exceptional response to our Halloween Festival, where horror movies were curated and played in cinemas late at night.
Q. Vkaao also offers screenings in tier-II and tier-III cities. How different are the movie-watching patterns, and the selection of content in smaller towns and cities as compared to in urban centres?
A. Regional population staying in metro cities tend to pick movies of their native language. Whereas audiences in tier-II cities tend to pick Hollywood movies that never released in their cities. During weekends, audiences tend to pick old/classics. And paid previews and exclusive shows are quite popular in metro cities.
Q. What do you think is the future for platforms like Vkaao in India?
A. On-demand consumption behaviour will be the driving factor for Vkaao in India. Supply driven cinema exhibition will eventually phase towards demand driven exhibition, which Vkaao is at forefront of. The coming years for platforms like Vkaao in India are expected to be bright, as patrons have an encouraging response towards this medium wherein they have complete control over their movie-watching experience at theatres. In addition, technological solutions are advancing with each passing day and in this case, consumers are more inclined towards a product that enables ease of booking, preview ongoing screening etc.
Q. How are you planning to further upgrade Vkaao?
A. We plan to add more PVR screens, thereby making more screens available for Vkaao too. For the coming years, we aim to aggressively scale up the platform through promotions via marketing within cinemas and at BookMyShow’s and PVR’s websites. To drive more awareness and visibility around the concept of Vkaao, we plan to increase our spending on digital marketing initiatives and using analytics to target specific sets of audience.
We are continuously upgrading the Vkaao library and look at doing the same in the future to ensure growth in terms of content curation as well as in [the number of] screens. We will specifically look to add niche content and look to beef up our regional library along with international language films.
Q. What do you think has led to the growth of Indian audiences watching Hollywood films in cinemas?
A. The screen share that Bollywood movies enjoy in India across geographies is comparatively more than what Hollywood movies do. Having said that, Hollywood movies are gradually penetrating in the inner pockets of the country also, as consumers there now strive for content beyond regional and Bollywood films. The patrons are more inclined towards content-centric movies lately, and factors like star cast, language or the budget of the film alone cannot drive footfalls. Thus, the country offers great growth potential for Hollywood films. Thanks to our consumer analytics, we have seen that tier-II and tier-III cities are eager to watch more Hollywood movies.