With movies not being released and strict lockdown norms, the cinema business has taken a big hit and so has food and out-of-the-home entertainment.
The pandemic has altered consumer habits to a great extent and it is expected that the out-of-home industry can expect some permanent changes in consumer behavior. Brands are innovating their offerings or services to attract consumers back.
“The cinemas were completely shut down for 9 months and now the government has allowed cinemas halls to open. So two things have happened, people have that urged to step out of the house after a long time as for quite some time the source of entertainment for people has been sports, OTT, etc. There is a huge difference between watching movies at home and in cinemas. The social factor plays an important role in bringing people back to cinemas. After COVID there was a lot of speculation of people coming back to cinemas since most of the movies were released on OTT platforms. Going forward it is important that we take the advantage of this need that people have to come out and experience things in person. We have streamlined a lot of our approaches, have innovated the food and beverages we offer, we have tied with a number of partners and enlisted it on Swiggy or Zomato for delivery. Now, many big films are lined up for release which is a huge opportunity for us to take advantage of. These pent-up desires of revenge hospitality coupled up with low operational costs are going to be a big opportunity that cinema has to cash in on,” says Rahul Puri, Managing Director, Mukta Art Ltd.
“COVID has been a test for all of us. Everything was shut for 6 months and suddenly your enemies became your best friends and we realize that we are fortunate to have Swiggy and Zomato to get some business going. The business was not zero but had we been in the franchise business we would have done extremely well. We have recovered 74 percent in comparison to our pre-COVID numbers. The expansion was the biggest struggle. I think the fine-dine business got impacted very badly. It was more about survival,” states Dheeraj Gupta, Founder & CEO, Jumboking.
“We shut down in March 2019 and reopened in March 2020. It was difficult for us to figure out what kids want and what their parents want. Our challenge was how to convince parents to take their kids out. One point of marketing communication that really worked out for us in lockdown was microbloggers. Many bloggers were ready to review KidZania without any monetary transactions. This gave us the window that other parents can see that it’ll be totally safe for them to bring their kids to KidZania. In July we got permission to open our Noida facility again and the rule was that we were allowed to open only during the weekdays which was confusing for us because most of our business happens during the weekends. We took the risk, opened our facility, and expected around 40-50 visitors every day. Surprisingly, on the first day, we had 200 attendees, on the second day, there were 300 visitors. From July to today, parents are visiting us. Now weekends are becoming challenging for us. The rule is that we can work only on 50 percent capacity and our normal capacity is 1,600 with kids and we are touching the 800 mark every alternate weekend. Another consumer insight that we saw was that we are flooded with birthday party invitations and we can just do 5-6 birthday parties in a day. We learned that you have to be dynamic, ready with a plan, and flexible. Lastly, KidZania is known to be the place for school exhibitions but unfortunately, schools have been shut but last month we had our first school visit from Punjab after two years in Delhi. Schools will take some time to get to normalcy and once that happens we are positive that we will be ready for them,” adds Tarandeeep Singh Sekhon, Marketing Director, KidZania.
The pandemic gave birth to many short-term challenges which the out-of-home entertainment players had to face to keep their businesses running. Each and every brand thought innovatively to find the solutions to these problems.
“There are a number of short-term challenges we face, one is a number of seats, the other is food is not allowed to be taken inside the auditorium and this hinders the whole experience of watching a movie. In March 2021, when we opened up there were no new films so content was one challenge we faced. These challenges have been difficult for us. You need to make people safe with proper and continuous sanitization, social distancing even with the seatings, vaccination protocols, etc. and there are still a lot of grey areas that we need to work upon. The desperation of people to go out of the house is balancing these challenges,” asserts Puri.
As tenants, we were trying to figure out rentals because every mall has different policies. Though we were completely shut, the good part for us was that we had good backup from our investors because they believe in the concept. The focus was how we can have a better relationship with our tenants going forward,” adds Sekhon.