Though single-screen theatres are technically superior both in terms of visual and audio, they are gradually becoming extinct due to better commercial viability of multiscreen theatres.
Before 2010, there were hardly five multiplexes in Chennai with a little over 15 screens. The rest were single-screen theatres. “But now, Chennai has 110 screens, of which 95 are in multiplex and a mere 15 single-screen theatres.
It was Devi Paradise that brought in the trend followed by Abirami and Sathyam. Those theatres were a big deal those days. Now I can give you the count of single-screen in the city,” says Tiruppur Subramaniam, president of Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association and also the owner of the largest number of theatres in the state.
“The reason behind single-screen theatres expanding to multiplexes is primarily the occupancy. They can run two-three movies simultaneously. Even if one film flops, the other film could draw audience. Also, people find it convenient to book tickets online rather than booking it in advance from the counters.
In future, 90 per cent of the theatres in Tamil Nadu will be multiplexes,” he adds. Major players in the city tell us that single-screen theatres are technically stronger than multiplexes. Rakesh, managing director of Vetri Theatre says, “Single-screen theatres provide quality projection and 4K Dolby Atmos sound effects. Not even the major multiplexes in the city could offer the audience the same quality.
Single-screen theatres in South Tamil Nadu are technically stronger than the multiplexes in the city. The only advantage of having multiple screens is that they are commercially viable.”
Rakesh adds that there are certain laws for a theatre to qualify as a multiplex. “The minimum seating capacity should be 800 and should have pushback seats for the audience. Rather than spending a few thousands at a mall for watching a film with the family, audiences are happy spending a few hundred in multiplexes,” he remarks. The twist in the tale is that producers enjoy a profit share of 60:40 in single-screen theatres while it is the other way around in the multiplexes.
“The average amount of profit we get from single-screens is higher than what we get from multiplexes. Single-screen theatres in south or away from Chennai attract audiences only when a star’s film releases.
In multiplexes, audience watch all sorts of films,” reveals SR Prabhu, a leading producer and the treasurer of Tamil Nadu Film Producers’ Council.