Leaded, unleaded or a cinema ticket?

By | September 21, 2007 10:41 am PST

Gas attendantIndian refinery company Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) is branching out from petrol station – into forecourt cinemas. As income declines from retail petroleum products BPCL thinks that it can revive its fortunes by pumping out digital cinema features in halls all across India. With oil prices being as high as they are, you’d think that this was a strange move but apparently government controls are keeping fule prices and profits in check. From Economic Times of India:

Confirming the development, BPCL chairman Ashok Sinha told ET: “Cinema halls will help us boost our non-fuel revenues. We are undertaking two pilot projects at our retail outlets in Gujarat. If successful, the same will be replicated in other retail outlets across the country.”

To source content, BPCL has tied up with Sony Entertainment Ltd (SET’s) film distribution unit, Cinemata. This tie-up will also help BPCL set up single screen cinema halls in most of the company-owned outlets in the country.

Being the country’s third largest refiner, BPCL has over 7,500 retail outlets across India. However, the company plans to have cinema halls initially in the company-owned outlets only. “The pilot project is costing us around Rs 1 crore. We have transponders and ready infrastructure in place. The movies will be shown via satellites. If everything goes well, we will have 300 cinema halls at our retail outlets by 2010,” Mr Sinha said.

The mind reels (no pun intended) at the potential synergies – forecourt attendants dressed as usher(ettes) anyone? – though sadly there seems to be no inclination to take the concept to its logical conclusion: forecourt drive-in cinemas! But the oil men are hard nosed about what will work and what will happen to that which doesn’t work. “If a movie is not making money, we will change it on the third day (itself),” Mr Sinha is quoted as saying. IF you think it is a strange idea remember that British Gas experimented with converting some of its high-street shops in the UK to micro video cinemas in the early 1980s. But it does give a whole new meaning to the idea of having film on tap. (Photo courtesy of Old-Pictures.com)

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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