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Help Alliance with Reliance: Phoenix makes it BIG with Mumbai-based MediaWorks
Jan 25, 2011
-By Andreas Fuchs

“BIG Cinemas has enjoyed an excellent partnership with Phoenix and we look forward to growing our relationship with them in the years to come,” says Anil Arjun, chief executive officer of Reliance MediaWorks, extending his good wishes from Mumbai, India. On the occasion of our 10th-anniversary tribute, Film Journal International had the opportunity to learn more about the partnership that began in April 2008.

Formerly known as Adlabs Films, Reliance MediaWorks (RMW) is one of India’s fastest growing film and entertainment services company, including film processing and digital mastering; animation, visual effects and 3D; studios and equipment rentals. A member of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group group of companies, RMW also operates BIG Synergy, a television venture, and runs BIG Cinemas with over 550 screens across India, the United States, Malaysia, Nepal and The Netherlands. (More on new BIG Cinemas in next month’s “Class of 2010.”)

“BIG Cinemas is the largest Indian cinema chain—in India and overseas,” Arjun confirms. “Phoenix is a well-known theatre management company in the U.S. and the professionals at Phoenix have many years of varied experience in the cinema business. There are clear synergies on how both the companies can work and grow together, as Phoenix’s experience in theatre management in the U.S. perfectly complements BIG Cinemas’ knowledge of the Indian diaspora and Indian content. And, jointly, we provide a wholesome customer experience to our patrons. With nearly four million South Asians with strong affinity to Indian film content, North America is an attractive market for Indian films.”

One-third of the overseas theatrical market for Bollywood films of roughly $155 million comes from North America, and Europe has a similar share, Arjun says. “Of the $50 million market for Indian content in North America, approximately $35 to 40 million is from the U.S. With 400-plus movies produced annually in the Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages, around 170 are released in the U.S.”

As little as two or three years ago, that number was only about 100 titles, with a box office of around $30 million. “In 2010, box-office collection is estimated to be $35 to 40 million, implying a 6% CAGR.” This growth, Arjun believes, “has been due to major organized play in the marketing, promotion and distribution of films in the U.S.”

Comparing Hindi, Tamil and Telugu titles directly is difficult because “the size of market is different for each of these languages,” Arjun elaborates. “However, the relative importance of the U.S. market for each of these languages can be seen from the fact that while around 30% of overseas collection of Hindi movies is from the U.S., it is as high as 85% for Telugu movies and around 10% for Tamil movies. On an average, BIG Cinemas accounts for 25% of Hindi movies’ collection in the U.S., 65 to 70% of Telugu movies and 65 to 70% of Tamil movies. While this is an annual average, there have been instances where BIG Cinemas contributed more than 90% of box-office collections.”

This is positive proof that the partnership and strategy are working. “BIG Cinemas expanded in the U.S. almost simultaneously with the Phoenix association,” Arjun concurs. “We have a two-pronged approach for the U.S. market. First, we are catering to the Indian/South Asian diaspora. To that end, BIG Cinemas is looking to expand in locations such as Dallas, Houston, Florida, Boston, etc. Secondly, to become the largest theatre management company in the U.S., we are continuously adding managed screens to our portfolio.”

And making them a better place to enjoy movies. “Five properties in the lease-and-manage category have been significantly upgraded,” he assures. “The introduction of new snacks, better facilities to patrons, greater customer satisfaction and more is an ongoing process in our endeavor to provide a superior guest experience.”
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