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Mukesh Ambani’s technological disruption: PVR Cinemas, INOX frown at Jio’s ‘First Day First Show’

Shubham Verma

Reliance Jio is mulling to redevelop how Indians consume entertainment by bringing its new 'First Day First Show' offering with Jio Fiber. At the 42nd AGM of Reliance Industries, chairman Mukesh Ambani announced what he claims will disrupt the concept of watching latest movies in India. Said to be exclusively available for Jio Fiber customers in mid-2020, Jio's 'First Day First Show' will let users watch movies on personal devices the same day they are released in theatres. However tempting this may sound, it comes with a plausible conflict for theatre chains in India. Two of them-PVR Cinemas and INOX Leisure-have now responded to Jio's new strategy of acquiring customers.

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The scope of the statements given by both the multiplex behemoths in India is limited by the paucity of details on Jio's new service. But PVR Cinemas and INOX share the sentiment that essentially outlines how watching movies on platforms other than theatres is religiously different from going to theatres. Both multiplex and single-screen firms in India make exclusive deals with distributors and producers of a movie, which ensures the content does not reach platforms such as OTT, DVD, and DTH unless the "theatrical window" is over.

INOX stated strongly in its statement that while producers are "entitled to choose the platform for distribution and consumption of his content [movies]", releasing a movie on simultaneous platforms-theatres and Jio's upcoming service-would "breach the mutually agreed exclusive theatrical window". Along the same line, PVR Cinemas drew history into the argument to point out that "cinemas continue bringing people together to share a communal experience". The multiplex owner also said cinemas is responsible for delivering "a robust box office performance" not just in growing markets such as India but also in mature markets such as the US and China among others.

Mentioning key statistics on the contribution of cinema halls to the filmed entertainment sector, PVR Cinemas said, citing a FICCI report, that theatres accounted for around 75 per cent of the total Rs 174.5 billion entertainment revenue in the year 2018. It also talked about the co-existence of both theatres and online platforms, however, mentioning how the former will outweigh the latter. "We are extremely buoyant about cinema exhibition's growth prospects", said PVR Cinemas in a circulated statement.

Not only the multiplexes, Jio's move of bringing latest movies to the comfort of its subscriber's home will hurt single screen owners across India. While multiplexes can run multiple shows at multiple screens, it gives them a little edge over the single screen, who, fiscally, cannot drive greater volume of footfall. Moreover, this move is also likely to impact the online ticketing business, the primary source of revenue of which is movie theatres. A decline in the practice of watching movies in cinemas will directly impact the online bookings of tickets.

In any case, we will have a clear picture of Jio's ambitious yet controversial plan of letting Jio Fiber users enjoy movie inside their homes in the coming weeks.