Multiplying multiplexes

The state of Indian exhibition will be revolutionized by the Modi/United Artists Theater Circuit co-venture, which aims to build at least one multiplex consisting of eight to 12 screens in every urban center of more than 1 million people.

That means constructing a minimum of 23 complexes over the next five years, according to Modi Enterprises president/managing director Lalit K. Modi.

There are currently no multiplexes in India. It is shaping up to be a race between Modi/UATC and Warner Bros. Intl. to open the nation’s first.

The Modi/UATC partnership is being registered with the government, the search for a chief exec is down to the short list and sites are being evaluated, Modi says.

The co-venture intends at some stage to move to a stock exchange flotation to secure coin from outside investors, he adds.

The partnership plans to build family and community entertainment centers with cinemas, virtual reality rides, Showscan theaters and restaurants. The screening policy will embrace Indian, American and other foreign films.

This is the third major exhibition push in India, along with Warner Bros. Intl. Theaters in league with the provincial government based in Bombay; and a co-venture between leading Indian exhib Priya and Australia’s Village Roadshow.

Modi believes there is plenty of room for all three groups, and Village Roadshow’s John Crawford agrees. “We’re negotiating a large number of sites on a wide front,” Crawford says.

Paradoxically, India has one of the highest cinemagoing rates in the world – and one of lowest ratios of screens to population.

There are about 13,000 screens (some 9,000 permanent, the rest touring) to serve 900 million people. Adding to the paradox, India produces more films – about 850 a year – than any other country. However, cinema attendance has been slipping in all areas except the south.

Many theaters are old, moldy cavernous buildings seating 1,000 people.

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