Why Multiplex Brands are Irrelevant

I am freely borrowing this quote without permission from a friend (thanks Sanjay), who put it up on Facebook, three days ago, “I used to frequently visit Big Cinema / IMAX at Wadala. Enjoyed the cinema, great seats, ample space.. And then Fun Cinemas came up at Chembur. Walking distance. I have not been to BIG, Wadala since…”
This got me thinking! Why do I go to one multiplex and not another?
Living in Matunga, I have a choice of Aurora, which is a stand-alone cinema, and three, almost equidistant multiplexes; Big in Wadala East, Cinemax in Sion and PVR at Phoenix.
Aurora of course is completely hopeless. Despite being a 3-minutes walk from my house, it has the unique ability to convert even a great movie into a terrible experience.
Perhaps the most important factor that helps me decide which multiplex to visit, is a convenient show time; provided of course that the movie I want to see, is being screened in the first place. Last year, for example, by the time we finally found the time for “Sex and the City”, it had vanished from Big and Cinemax (PVR didn’t exist), and we had to drive all the way to Sterling to catch a late night screening.
 
After that, it’s all about convenience. If we are self-driving and the only activity planned is the movie itself, then Big wins out due to the ample ground level parking, available within a couple of minutes of reaching the complex. However, if we have pre or post-movie plans such as shopping or dinner, then PVR becomes the obvious choice, solely because of the vast variety of shops and restaurants at Phoenix. Very rarely, do I even think of the other facilities such as the toilets, the legroom and the popcorn and except for Cinemax, which has lousy legroom, all the others are equally good or bad.
So, what is the point of all this?
Simple. According to me, it makes no difference these days what the name of the multiplex is. They are all the same. Gone are the days, when we would have agonized over whether to see an English movie locally or go all the way to Sterling, whether to try for Metro or Liberty for the latest Hindi flick, or make do with Satyam or Badal/Bijlee. Each theatre then had its own charm, its own quirks, it’s own set of rules for ticketing, both white and black with non-existent parking, bad toilets, terrible popcorn, oily samosas and awful vegetable rolls. I can still remember sitting for ages on the Sterling steps waiting for extra-tickets and hoping that my date would show up on time, or wondering why the seat numbers in Eros went from 202 to 204, skipping 203.
 
The multiplexes are a victim of their own success. They have made “movie-watching” a great experience, all of them are equally good, and unlike in the olden days when only select theatres screened specific movies, all of them now screen all movies, all at the same time. Ergo, the name or brand of the multiplex makes no difference at all; the only factors that matter are the availability of the show, the ease of booking tickets and conveniences like location and parking. In effect, the business is completely commoditized.
Which is why, if tomorrow, Aurora were to turn into a standard multiplex, irrespective of which chain it was part of, that would be the only place I’d go to; a 3-minutes walk beats any other consideration. Ask Sanjay!

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