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PVR, Reliance announce drive-in theatre project in Mumbai

NEW DELHI: State governments allowing cinemas to re-open with 100% capacity in some cases may be good news for the film industry but audiences may still be wary of sitting in close proximity with strangers. Now, they too, have a reason to cheer.

Multiplex chain PVR Cinemas has announced a rooftop drive-in cinema that opens on 5 November at Mumbai’s Jio World Drive mall in partnership with Reliance Retail. The theatre will accommodate around 295 cars with four people allowed in each vehicle and tickets priced around Rs. 1,200 per car.

“This project was in the making for five years and it is only serendipitous that it is being launched as we hopefully see the covid-19 pandemic reach its last passing legs,” Darshan Mehta, managing director, Reliance Brands Ltd said.

The land on which the property was located was home to a drive-in cinema until 1977, Mehta added, with its viability enhanced by virtue of being situated in the heart of the city. The cinema that plans to have around two shows per day will only operate at night, with the premises being converted into a sports arena to be used as a cycling or jogging track during the day.

Mehta and Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director, PVR Ltd, said the theatre should be able to circumvent challenges such as extreme weather conditions with most people remaining inside their respective vehicles and being able to hear the movie’s audio through car stereo. Food and beverage will be delivered directly to vehicles with payment being allowed on apps, making for contact-less transactions.

However, there will be open seating available as well, with chairs or mattresses. Bookings that can be made on ticketing site BookMyShow and PVR’s own app, will allow for car-wise parking to ensure a bigger vehicle doesn’t block the view of others. The property opens the day after Diwali on 5 November with Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi, that Bijli said was an eagerly awaited offering.

Mint had earlier reported that realty consultants were in talks with multiplex chains for drive-in cinemas in and around cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Punjab, with investments ranging from ₹3-5 crore per property depending on the size of the land. With consumers likely to remain wary of staying confined in closed auditoriums for hours to enjoy a film experience, companies are looking to tap into new streams of revenue.

To be sure, India has been home to a few drive-in cinemas over the years such as Sunset Drive-in-Cinema in Ahmedabad, Prarthana Beach Drive-in-Theatre in Chennai, Under the Stars in Bengaluru and Gurgaon Talkies in the national capital region but these have found it tough to discover an audience so far. Most cities in India are either too warm or too cold for most of the year, and that doesn’t help the cause of open-air screenings. Drive-in is a popular concept in countries like the US, where there were nearly 330 such cinemas at last count. Apart from high ticket rates, the challenge is cinemas can’t use the same screen outdoors that they would use indoors, in a closed auditorium, because it would keep reflecting light.

“We’re optimistic that this formula is going to work and if we tick boxes of right location and demography, we can take it to other cities as well,” said Bijli declining to comment on investment figures.

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