Indian Premier League (IPL), coming soon to a theatre near you…

Cheerleaders will applaud each six or boundary in their unique way. Bands will play in between overs. Only the venue is different. Instead of the cricket stadium, Indian Premier League enthusiasts can get all this for the price of an admission ticket to a movie hall. 

Multiplex chains like PVR, Inox Leisure, Cinemax, and Big Cinemas, among others, are negotiating the theatre rights to host at least one IPL match a day during the 45-day tournament starting April 10. They promise a ‘stadium-like environment’ for Rs 150 to Rs 200, half the rate of a regular stadium ticket. 

Though the Board of Control for Cricket in India holds the theatre rights, Set Max has the cable telecast and DTH rights for India. “We do not have the theatre rights for IPL, so the multiplexes will have to speak to the BCCI and not us,” said Rohit Gupta, president, network sales of Multiscreen Media, the company that runs Set Max.

The cricket board, however, is reportedly in talks with Set Max for an agreement that could include revenue share or minimum guarantees.  

BCCI sources said a decision on the commercial terms and agreements of IPL matches across multiplexes is close to being worked out. “Set Max fears a dip in television ratings if multiplexes get to showcase IPL matches. And linked with these ratings are the advertising spot rates on the channel,” said a senior executive of a sports marketing firm involved with the IPL franchise teams.

Meanwhile, multiplex owners said they would like to follow the movie model and share revenue with whoever holds the theatre rights. “We prefer to pay a fixed percentage of gross collections from ticket sales for the IPL matches like we do for any movie,” said Devang Sampat, senior vice-president, Cinemax India.

“We are ready to host IPL matches everyday. It will be a good revenue-earning opportunity. We will show it in all our multiplexes but on one screen,” added Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas.

Sources said corporate sponsorships are being worked out so that ticket prices can be kept competitive and the theatre chains can spend a good amount on creating a stadium-like ambience.

“IPL will be an important event because we may have to cancel one or two regular movie-shows to accommodate the matches,” said Alok Tandon, COO, Inox Leisure.

Last year, there was a significant dip in box-office collections in May-June during the duration of the IPL tournament. In May, gross box office collections were Rs 85 crore to Rs 90 crore, among the lowest collections for the calendar year.

“IPL commanded a significant viewership in television last year and there were implications for the movie business too. But whether we will actually be able to show IPL matches in multiplexes is not clear at this juncture,” said Tushar Dhingra, COO, Adlabs Cinemas now rechristened Big Cinemas.

Exhibitors also said the provisions of the Cinematograph Act needed to be amended to accommodate any non-film exhibition in the theatres apart from entertainment tax issues, an expert said.

“We are bound by the Cinematograph Act that allows us to show only 35mm films in the theatres,” said Utpal Acharya, vice-president, programming and distribution, Inox Leisure.

On any commercial telecast of a non-film event, multiplexes are required to pay entertainment tax on the basis of 100 per cent occupancy rate. This means if only 50 tickets are sold for any particular IPL match, the movie hall will still be required to pay the entertainment tax on the full capacity.

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