Ranjit Thakur, who's bringing IMAX Private to India, talks about the root cause of falling footfalls and scope of virtual reality films

Devansh Sharma

January 18, 2018 15:43:26 IST

Firstpost caught up with Ranjit Thakur, the founder of Krian Media and more recently, of Media Konnect, a global media exchange platform. The latest feather to his cap is that he is now introducing IMAX Private to India. Here is an excerpt of the conversation.

What is the idea behind bringing a chain of private IMAX theatres to India?

Our deal with IMAX is different from the commercial act. We are basically IMAX Private which means that we are taking the same IMAX experience to a smaller space. We'll use the same IMAX equipment in residential spaces, homes, clubs, hotels and corporate buildings. IMAX is undoubtedly the best form of cinema entertainment in the world. We want to take this experience to a different vertical and make them feel like they have gone to an IMAX theatre.

There is a lot of merit in that as we are really taking cinema closer to their home. IMAX also has a large vertical. It has various Virtual Reality games. We want to be the best cinema experience one can have outside a theatre and live up to the legacy of the IMAX brand name. We've recognised there are takers willing to pay for that experience in our country.

So it is clearly a luxury service?

It's an ultra-luxury service. The people who buy BMW, Audi and Mercedes are not the target group of this service. People who buy Lamborghini, Ferrari and Aston Martin are the people who will move towards a private IMAX experience. As per our research, it will be around 500 to 700 homes in the country. Essentially, we're looking at 70 per cent of India's GDP.

Ranjit Thakur

Ranjit Thakur

Since you are a pioneer in importing the digital film technology to India, did you face resistance from single screen owners as they are more wary of change?

Initially, when I chalked out the business plan in 2008, only Manmohan Shetty was the one who believed and invested in us. But I always maintained that the content is going to drive the hardware and not the other way round. Irrespective of the hardware, the content had to be of good quality. Come Avatar, the entire demographics of Indian cinema changed. Everybody who did not see the writing on the wall started warming up to digital. I personally envisioned to make around 500 screens across India DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) compliant. But as of today, we have over 3,000 DCI compliant screens in more than 100 cities. Everyone uses digital today. Nobody uses analog.

Amitabh Bachchan recently shared that Kodak is reopening its facility in India this year. He reminisced about shooting on film than digital. Do you think shifting back to analog is commercially wise?

I doubt that's going to happen because there's no roster available in the first place, whether it is filming on film or playback on film. Some filmmakers, particularly in Hollywood, like Christopher Nolan, shoot only on film because of creative reasons, such as the colours are warmer. But overall, I do not think there's any industry around the world, related to media and entertainment, that is going back from digital to analog.

Since you mentioned Christopher Nolan, when his Dunkirk released last year, there was a concern about the IMAX format not being optimally enjoyed in India owing to technological limitations. Do you echo that thought?

India has about 10 operational IMAX theatres. All of them are at par with the global standards otherwise they would not have got the authorisation to sell themselves as an IMAX. But if you ask me if the IMAX is under-screened in India, my answer would be yes. If you compare it to China, it has about 700 to 800 IMAX screens. India is a bit more challenging because of the ATP (Average Ticket Price). One cannot increase either the ticket price beyond a point or the space as an IMAX theatre can accommodate only up to 300 audience members. Having said that, there is an increasing interest in developing more IMAXes. Whether it is the Hollywood releases or even Indian releases like Baahubali, the potential of IMAX is being utilised. If you look at the press releases by PVR, Inox and Satyam Cinema (Chennai), around 20 to 25 IMAX screens will be opened within the next three years. So the population of IMAX will certainly increase.

AR Rahman recently said that his directorial debut, a virtual reality film, is not fit to be screened in India yet as the theatres lack the required technology. Do you agree with him? If you do, when do you think we'll get there?

Unfortunately, I do agree with Rahman. But we are improving at a much faster rate than we were earlier. Theatres and audiences are willing to embrace new technology, new experiences. And if someone comes up with an interesting mix of content and packaging, I'm sure we'll be ready to deliver. So we are already there.

Since you are also into film distribution, would you like to comment on why there is a gap between the release of Hollywood films worldwide and in India? While the superhero films release a week earlier here, Oscar nominated films release only at the time of, or after the Academy Awards.

The reason why these superhero films release a week earlier is to curb piracy. Major Hollywood studios conducted a study in several markets to find out the potential piracy threats. India, Brazil and Malaysia were some of them. So they release their films in these countries a week earlier to avoid piracy. It could also be to avoid competition with any big Hindi film releasing in India at that time.

The reason why they are not releasing smaller films in India is because India is a largely under-screened country. Because we churn out the highest volume of films in a year, including Bollywood and regional cinema. For example, this past Friday, about eight films released but a film like The Post did not get as many screens as it should have because there were three other films of native content that released on the same day.

The reason why India will not have more screens is because opening a theatre is not considered a profitable investment owing to lower footfall. And the footfall will not increase if the content does not improve. Ultimately, the baton rests with the content. Is there any collective measure the industry can take to improve content?

The content has to be both cheaper and of supreme quality. With the same intention, we came up with Media Konnect which is a blend of Linkedn and Facebook. It serves as a global media exchange platform that help one to both connect and collaborate with a fellow member of the media and entertainment industry. Right from looking for a producer to execute and bankroll a writer's script to getting the rights of a novelist's book for an adaptation, all these entertainment-related services are available on the platform. It allows the content to be cheaper which makes a film or a web series or any project more economically viable. I think this collaborative medium is really the future of cinema across the globe.

Updated Date: Jan 18, 2018 15:43 PM