Ever thought of watching a film under the open sky? Well, that could soon be a reality as the concept of drive-in theatres seem to be vrooming ahead in India. As per reports, while PVR Cinemas is readying to launch its first drive-in theatre in Mumbai, Carnival Cinemas has “identified three locations in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Kochi.” It’s believed that the latter plans to kick off some operations “in the next two months”. A realty consulting company is apparently in talks with an Indian firm for drive-in cinemas around various places such as Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Punjab.
So, are drive-in theatres the next big thing? “It could be a big market if planned properly. They could also be the ‘big-screen experience’ in a totally new way. Also, after multiplexes, we haven’t had a new addition in the space of movie consumption, so this could shake things up,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh, who remembers watching numerous films at a drive-in theatre in Bandra in the 70’s.
Experts feel the investment on a drive-in theatre could be anything between ₹3-5 crore depending on the location/size of the property, facilities and the capacity of vehicles. Drive-in theatres used to be popular in places such as Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru but lost its appeal due to the multiplex boom. They, however, are still very popular in European countries as well as the US.
“For audiences, it can be a totally new, unique experience. But the most critical part is that it has to be planned and executed in a manner wherein it’s financially feasible – in terms of earmarking properties, ticket prices and number of shows etc. – in every way possible,” says exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi, adding: “However, in India, where we are under-screened, drive-in theatres could also be a great, novel way to add screens. Especially, in tier-2 and tier-3 towns, where the land prices are reasonable/affordable, it can provide people new ways of entertainment.”
At the same time, industry insiders feel “very limited number of shows” [only post-sunset], higher ticket prices [including car parking fees] as compared to regular theatres and India’s extreme weather pattern could be a few reasons why drive-in cinemas may be a challenge. “Safety is also a huge concern. Back in the day, at Bandra’s drive-in theatre, patrons’ safety became a problem due to incidents of looting and attacks on vehicles. Such things have to be taken care of on priority,” says Manoj Desai, executive director of the G7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir.
Safety & privacy
Experts agree that at a time when social distancing and lockdown have become a part of life, drive-in theatres are likely to attract audiences in a big way. “For me, more than watching a film, drive-in theatres would be all about enjoying that special experience,” says filmmaker Nikkhil Advani, who watched many movies at a drive-in theatre, as a kid in Mumbai.
He adds: “Now, with high-end technology such as Bluetooth, great sound systems, LED screens etc., let’s see how things go. I’m sure besides the younger generation who haven’t experienced it yet, there are going to be many like me who would want to have that experience all over again.” Adarsh puts things in perspective: “This concept may sound appealing to people considering the times [Covid-19 pandemic] that we are living in.”