India’s leading multiplex chain operator, PVR expects business to return to pre-COVID level by the end of the ongoing fiscal year. Along with other cinema operators in the country, it is looking forward to a consistent supply of good films and hopes there is no third wave and further lockdowns.
Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director, PVR, told PTI that the company is “slightly cautious” over the expansion of screens and would add about 19 screens by September, most of which were capitalized pre-pandemic and post then, it would pause up to next year till the business progresses and watch cash flow generation.
“There are 18-19 screens which we have in pipeline and the rest of the year, we are hoping to bounce back and reach pre-pandemic level by the end of Q3 and Q4,” Bijli said. “PVR expects to reach the pre-pandemic level of business. It will take us a while. It is a big challenge, you have taken a big hit. It is coming out every quarter on quarter, it’s a very challenging time. It will take time at least three to four quarters, provided that there is a consistent supply of good films and there is a consistent supply of good films and there is no third wave or any variant.” He pointed out that in August, only one Hindi movie is being released, Akshay Kumar’s Bell Bottom and from September onwards, Hindi movies would start to come in full screen.
PVR has raised funds through QIP and has availed additional borrowings of Rs 200 crore under the government’s Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS). The company will be spending the fund on maintaining its working capital and other expenses. Bijli believes India has enough headroom to grow, as the number of screens per capita is very low, in comparison to other markets. “There is no doubt that this business will grow every year.”
He said the pandemic was unexpected and unprecedented but it is not going to stay forever and people are getting vaccinated. PVR is optimistic and has remained committed to the exhibition industry, which the operator says will realize the growth potential in the country. It believes that once things are normal, people would come back to cinema as they did earlier and for that, operators need to add more and more cinemas.
In regards to a potential third wave, Bijli said various epidemiologists and virologists have different opinions about the possibility. “Who do you believe. At the same time, we cannot run businesses and cannot run our lives based on fear, which is very uncertain anyways. We believe that as long as there is no major lockdown again, we have to bounce back in the business.”