PVR Inox Pictures, the largest cinema exhibitor in India, is bringing Korean films at its multiplexes to arrest a drop in theatre-going audiences. Indian film industry lost an estimated 2.4 crore audience in 2022, largely due to fears around the coronavirus, as per a February 2023 report 'Sizing the cinema: How big is India's theatre-going population?' by media consulting firm Ormax.

Between January-December 2022, India had only 12.2 crore theatre-goers— those who watched at least one film in a theatre — as against 14.6 crore in the same period before the pandemic in 2019.

On the sidelines of the premiere of Korean film 'Past Lives', Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, executive director, PVR Inox, told Fortune India, "In terms of ticket sales, post-pandemic numbers are roughly 25% lower than pre-pandemic levels. Hindi movies have not performed as well as we would have liked them to."

PVR Inox Pictures hosted an exclusive premiere of filmmaker Celine Song's critically-acclaimed Korean feature 'Past Lives' on June 28.

The age-old dominance of Hindi-language cinema has witnessed a coup d'état by the South Indian film industry and international films in post-pandemic years. While OTT (over-the-top) platforms have given easy access to foreign films, revenues of the South Indian film industry have nearly doubled to over ₹7,000 crore in 2022, which accounts for 52% of revenues of the pan-Indian film industry, according to a report released in April by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

"We are expecting and hoping for a surge in the numbers in coming months. The line-up looks pretty good for the next three quarters with Rocky and Rani, Animal, Jawan, Tiger 3, and Dhunki," adds Bijli.

South India though has performed better than expected and PVR Inox has plans to add more properties and screens in cinemas down South. "That will change the colour and get us better footfall than last year," he said.

The underperformance of a majority of films released in 2022 has come up as a reason to believe that OTT platforms will lead to theatres becoming obscure in the future.

Disagreeing with the notion, Bijli opines, "As far as the two mediums are concerned, they did co-exist earlier also and they continue to co-exist. People have come back to cinemas, they have come back for the big blockbusters like RRR, KGF, Drishyam 2 and Pathaan. They have done phenomenal numbers, these numbers weren't even heard of pre-pandemic such as ₹800 crore, ₹900 crore, ₹600 crore and more."

In terms of earnings, PVR Inox reported a net loss of ₹333 crore for the quarter ended March. However, the company is expecting a hike in revenues from last year. "We are working towards better results and better numbers, and we are expecting an approximately 30% jump," Bijli says.

PVR Inox released an anime film 'Suzame' in April this year which brought ₹10 crore in business. The launch of 'Past Lives' is expected to contribute at least ₹5 crore. "It is very difficult to ignore Korean cinema. Our taste has evolved a lot regardless of language," says Bijli while adding, "OTT platforms helped us realise the potential of Korean cinema."

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