Leading multiplex chain operator PVR Ltd expects its business to return to pre-pandemic level by the end of the ongoing fiscal year, hoping there is a consistent supply of good films and no third wave and further lockdowns in the country, its chairman and managing director Ajay Bijli has said.
Over the expansion of screens, Bijli said PVR is "slightly cautious" and would add around 19 screens by September, most of which were capitalised pre-pandemic and post then, it would pause up to next year till the business progresses and watch cash flow generation.
"There are 18-19 screens which we have in pipeline and rest of the year, we are hoping to bounce back and reach pre-pandemic level by the end of Q3 and Q4," Bijli told PTI.
PVR on Thursday, extending its presence into the Delhi NCR region, through its luxury arm 'The Luxury Collection', launched its First Director's Cut in Haryana at Ambience Mall, Gurugram.
With this addition, PVR now has 155 screens and 265 screens in northern India.
Like other multiplex chains, PVR has started its operation from the last week, in some regions after a forced closure by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. PVR has got permission to operate 526 screens in 12 states and 2 UTs.
PVR expects to reach the pre-pandemic level of business, Bijli told PTI, adding, "It will take us a while." "It is a big challenge, you have taken a big hit... it is coming out every quarter on quarter, its a very challenging time. It will take time at least three to four quarters, provided that there is a consistent supply of good films and there is no third wave or any variant," he added.
According to him, in August only one Hindi movie is being released -- Akshay Kumar's 'Bell Bottom'; and from September onwards, Hindi movies would start to come in full stream.
The company has raised funds through QIP and has availed additional borrowings of Rs 200 crore under the government's ECLGS (Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme) scheme.
It will be spending the fund on maintaining its working capital and other expenses.
According to Bijli, India has enough headroom to grow, as the number of screens per capita is very low, in comparison to other markets.
"There is no doubt that this business will grow every year," he said adding "of course the pandemic was unexpected and unprecedented" but it not going to stay forever and people are getting vaccinated.
PVR is "optimistic" and has remained "committed" to the exhibition industry, which the operator says will realise the growth potential in the country.
"Once the things are normal, people would come back to cinema as they did earlier and for that, we need to add more and more cinemas," Bijli added.
When asked about the possible third wave, he said various epidemiologists and virologists have different opinions about the possibility.
"Who do you believe. At the same time, we cannot run businesses and cannot run our lives based on fear, which is very uncertain anyways. We believe that as long as there is no major lockdown again, we have to bounce back in the business," Bijli said.
PVR currently operates a cinema circuit comprising of 846 screens at 176 properties in 71 cities in India and Sri Lanka.