PVR Cinemas ushers in new era for cine addicts with OLED technology

Though cost per ticket is likely to go up by ~150, the changing dynamics of the content ecosystem is believed to have driven the multiplex player towards taking the leap
The Indian film industry has had its share of ups and downs. In the past century, it underwent transformations, expanded its horizon and diversified. What remained constant is its primary means to reach the audience — the basic theatre screening technology. That, though, will change from Monday. 

The theatre projector, used since movie screening began in the country in late 1890s, is set to be replaced by 34-ft-high Ultra HD OLED screens that can offer seamless viewing, even with lights on.

The first such theater will start functioning Monday by PVR Cinemas, the country’s largest multiplex company, at DLF Promenade Mall in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj. An Akshay Kumar starrer, historical sport-drama Gold, will be the first film to be screened on the OLED screen.

It is as big a bet for PVR, as Samsung, the makers of the screens, now plan to put an end to an era of film screening with its new technology. Moreover, one such screen can dig a hole of Rs 35-55 million ($500,000-800,000) in PVR’s coffers. 

Despite that, the first theater does not fall short of its counterparts in California, Seoul or Zurich. The screens offer high dynamic ratio-picture quality with infinite contrast and is accompanied by state-of-the-art custom JBL sound system. The technology, launched in the US hardly four months ago, could have taken years to arrive in India, given the Indian industry's history of lagging by years in bringing Hollywood production quality.

It is not without a rationale, though, that PVR went ahead with such an ambitious project. Though cost per ticket is estimated to go up by Rs 100-150, the changing dynamics of the content ecosystem is believed to have driven the multiplex player towards taking the big leap. Since 2014, consumption of digital content has spiked.

Over-the-top (OTT) content industry has grown 23 per cent — at a much higher rate than the 7 per cent growth rate for the digital content industry — to Rs 20.2 billion, a PwC report said. It is projected to reach Rs 56 billion by 2020. According to a Ficci-EY report, 6 million subscribers in India are paying for OTT content and the number is set to grow to 20 million in next two years. The total number of OTT users (including free subscribers) will rise to more than 500 million from 200 million. And all players revolutionising the multi-screen content industry by offering full HD contents, such as Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime, are in aggressive expansion mode.

The transformation has only got a boost from plunging data rates and growing network of 4G telecom services. According to telecom regulator Trai, data consumption got a leg up after Reliance Jio’s entry. It went up 15 times (from 0.26 GB in 2014 to 4.13 GB per user per month in 2017), with average data rates falling by 93 per cent during the same period. And 70 per cent of all data is being consumed through video.

There is more for Samsung — the Korean big brother of consumer technology. The firm chose India as the 12th venue for launching the cutting-edge offering at a time when smart TV sales are on a fast lane and differentiating oneself is getting increasingly difficult, with prices falling sharply in the past eight months. 

With the entry of a host of smart TV makers such as Xiaomi, Thomson, and Kodak, prices of a 40-inch smart TV has fallen by more than 40 per cent and the market is now open to at least a dozen players and is not a stronghold for only the big four early players — Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic. And estimates suggest over 80 per cent of online TV buyers are opting for smart TVs.

Samsung’s latest move will create a ripple in the market by reestablishing the firm’s technical superiority. According to Dongjin Koh, a global president and chief executive at Samsung, the firm is working towards earning the love of consumers in India.