PVR-Sathyam deal: Filmbuffs want ticket prices and popcorn unchanged

Chennai: Multiplex chain PVR Ltd’s proposed acquisition of Chennai’s much loved SPI Cinemas, commonly known as Sathyam, has raised concerns on possible changes in ticket pricing and distribution policies, and the impact on SPI’s brand.

Over the years, one of the greatest difference between SPI and PVR has been the pricing of tickets.

While theatres in Tamilnadu are allowed to charge Rs 150 plus taxes, SPI has maintained that figure at Rs 120 plus taxes for most films in Chennai. PVR, however, charges the maximum among the theatres here.

What the industry says
Over the years, Sathyam cinemas have also been the trendsetter in bringing in new movie technologies and elevating the movie watching experience in Chennai.

Tamil cinema especially has benefitted with Sathyam giving prominence for regional big releases and at the same time promoting smaller films.

Talking about that, actor and Tamil Film Producers Council president Vishal said, “SPI Cinemas has taken movie viewing to the next level. We need more multiplexes and I wish more screens open up through this deal. Hope they give more prominence to regional cinema especially Tamil in Tamil Nadu and not Hollywood or Hindi films.”

Noted distributor Abirami Ramanathan pointed out that PVR might bring in distribution policies from the North.

He said, “PVR has smaller screens compared to Sathyam and Abirami which have 1000 seats. So they would have to reduce the ticket prices to get more footfall,”

PVR’s chairman and managing director Ajay Bijli is optimistic of the future.

He said, “The acquisition of SPI Cinemas is of significant strategic value for PVR and will further cement our market leadership position in India.  For us to expand in that geography, which currently is highly underpenetrated in terms of multiplexes, this transaction is a significant step in helping us achieve our vision of having 1000 screens by 2020.”

Backlash on social media
The news of PVR buying SPI Cinemas has also evoked mostly mixed response from movie-goers. They wanted the cold coffee and popcorn to be retained without any changes.

One twitter user said: Hopefully, Sathyam’s popcorn and on-time movie experience don’t change. PVR is terrible with starting movies on time and the food is not very good there. Hope the team handling SPI cinemas’ operation is retained.

“They better don’t touch my popcorn. Sathyam’s popcorn is for Chennai, what Vada Pav means for Mumbai,” posted another user.

An official in SPI Cinemas has however clarified that the firm is not quitting movie business. He said, ‘We will continue to run operations and deliver the best to our patrons who have stood by us all these years.’

The transaction is expected to be closed in the next 30 days and the merger process is expected to be completed in the next 9-12 months.

Fact file
1. Total acquisition: 71.69 per cent

2. PVR will buy SPI’s 61.65 per cent from SS Theatres LLP and 10.04 per cent equity from S V Swaroop Reddy for the acquisition.

3. 1.6 million equity shares of PVR will be issued for residual 28.3 per cent stake in SPI Cinemas.

4. Post the transaction, PVR will have 706 screens operational across India.

5. Currently, PVR operates around 600 screens in 52 cities in India.

6.SPI Cinemas operates 76 screens across 17 properties in 10 cities under several brands Sathyam, Escape, Palazzo, The Cinema, S2 Cinema.