The Singham of Indian cinema, Ajay Devgn is set to invest ₹600 crore in his multiplex venture NY Cinemas Llp over the next five years. Mr. Devgn plans to open nearly 250 screens for the Bollywood fans starting from the northern and western parts of India. The first is set to launch this June itself at Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh.
NY Cinemas will primarily target people who don’t have access to modern movie theatres in small towns. This theatre chain is a startup that has stemmed from Devgn’s love for cinema and the fact that he sees the medium as a great source of mass entertainment. So, big movie theatres should not have a high-end ambiance, he said. Unwilling to elaborate much about the project, Devgn said it will be unlike any other in the market.
He says that competing with mainstream players like PVR Ltd or INOX Leisure Ltd won’t help because the audience is simply going to get divided. He added that footfalls will only increase when we build theatres for people who right now are not able to go to one.
“The prices will certainly differ depending on the viewer’s location and the property involved, but the main idea is to have a high number of pair of eyes watch films, irrespective of where they currently belong to,” said the chief executive of NY Cinemas, Rajeev Sharma.
The actor is set to acquire single screens as well as build new theatres to meet the target of 250 screens in the first phase of the venture. He started it by buying two single-screen theatres in Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur and Ghazipur. He says he will look for investment partners only after the first theatre comes up.
“It’s not about whether business acumen is important for an actor or not, it’s about whether you like to do these things yourself, do you want to grow that way or not, and I believe I passionately do,” said Devgn, who, under his own production house Ajay Devgn FFilms (ADFL), has given some of his recent hits like Total Dhamaal, besides some critically-acclaimed projects like Parched and Aapla Manus, and TV series Swami Ramdev-Ek Sangharsh.
His visual effects firm NY VFXWAALA has done movies like Simmba, Bajirao Mastani and Shivaay.
Though, his own firm is handling a few digital projects, Devgn said going forward, big-scale spectacles will be needed to draw people to cinemas. His next one Taanaji: The Unsung Warrior, is a magnum opus, big-budget period drama on the Maharashtrian military leader.
“I believe in that kind of cinema,” Devgn said. “If it’s a niche, simple film, you may not mind watching it on a hand-held device or television. But to go to the theatres, you want that experience. So, we are moving towards that. It’s quite tough because there is so much of international exposure, like Marvel Cinemas right now. It’s not like we can’t do it, we have the technicians and the technology. But what Hollywood can do in ₹5,000 crore, we have to attempt in mere ₹100 crore. That is the main challenge.”
He even pointed at how Hindi films are doing well in China, some of them owing to wide theatrical release as China has a huge number of screens. “We have a population which can compete with the whole world, but we don’t have the theatres,” said the actor whose last three hits—Total Dhamaal, Raid and Golmaal Returns have altogether earned over Four hundred and fifty crores in India alone.
We are eagerly waiting for your theatres, Mr. Devgn!