Outdoor film screenings gaining popularity in Bengaluru

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Here is a trivia question that may stump even the most seasoned movie buff. What is the common element in Twister, The Wedding Planner, and Grease? After all, one is a disaster film, one a romcom and the last, a musical set in the 50s.

The answer: all three feature an outdoor film screening: either a drive-in or screening at the park.

Now, if you have been hoping to catch a film under the stars as the characters in these movies (though perhaps not from Twister!), here’s your chance. The trend of outdoor film screenings has been steadily gaining popularity in Bengaluru with companies with a nationwide presence as well as local ones such as The Courtyard organizing these events.

Outdoor film screenings gaining popularity in Bengaluru

Sushen Kakkar, project manager of city-based SteppinOut which organizes SteppinOut Movie Nights, says, “Many countries abroad have film screenings in public parks. Since Bengaluru generally has good weather throughout the year, we thought we could take the concept of watching movies and shift it to a more comfortable and relaxed setting.”

SteppinOut is an old hand among the companies that organize outdoor film screenings as it organized its first event here in 2015 with a screening of The Lion King, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Sushen adds, “We have had about 80 to 85 screenings in eight cities — Hyderabad, Mumbai, Mysore, Kolkata, Indore, Kochi, Jaipur and Delhi — and 30 to 35 screenings in Bengaluru till date.”

The draw here is the fact that this setting is far more relaxed than a regular theatre, especially if you have young children. You can lounge on a bean bag, curl up on a mattress or have a drink while nibbling on some starters, while children have the satisfaction of running around and being as loud as they want without being incessantly shushed.

“The basic idea is to create an experiential movie screening rather than just two hours of watching a screen,” he adds.

Outdoor film screenings gaining popularity in Bengaluru

Nikita Naiknavare, founder of Pune-based Lost The Plot, says, “We often get parents who want to introduce their children to classics; movies such as The Sound of Music, The Parent Trap and Home Alone that they watched when younger. It’s a bonding experience for the family; it’s much more relaxed and has a bit more of a community feel. I think that is sort of what attracts people to this experience. And in India, we all love movies. That, in itself, is a draw.”

Lost The Plot started in Pune in 2014 as a rooftop cinema at a dedicated venue. In 2018, the company started looking at expansion. “Bengaluru was our choice as it’s a similar market to Pune in terms of culture and weather,” says Nikita.

The first screening was held in Bengaluru in September 2018. “We decided to open with a 90s theme complete with décor. The films screened were Speed and There’s Something About Mary at The Farmhouse in Whitefield. Apart from that, we have also had screenings at The Hub in Safina Plaza,” she says.

Outdoor film screenings gaining popularity in Bengaluru

The company has organized four major screenings so far: two at The Farmhouse and two at The Hub. “Our format in Bengaluru is that we do a movie marathon: two movies with one theme,” adds Nikita.

Shivangini Bathla, Marketing Manager, Sunset Cinema Club, says: “We screen nostalgia-driven classics as well as what is still popular. Our first screening was The Godfather in 2017 at 153 Biere Street in Whitefield. It got a brilliant response. This year, we did a Friends special since it’s the sitcom’s 25th anniversary.”

Outdoor film screenings gaining popularity in Bengaluru

The Delhi-based company started as a pop-up cinema in 2016 and only recently converted into a permanent outdoor cinema company. It has organized over 170 screenings from November 2016 till date in Delhi, Gurugram, Pune, and Mumbai. In Bengaluru, there have been over 30 screenings. Films are now screened at Skydeck at VR Bengaluru, Whitefield.

As for how the company decides on which film to screen, both Sunset Cinema Club and SteppinOut allow the public to vote for the film they want to watch from a curated list.

Rain put a damper on things and the fact that its seasonal business is the common worries when organizing open-air screenings.

Shivangini adds, “Initially, one of our challenges was making people, especially our target audience of millennials, aware of the concept. Not many people had heard about drive-ins and had probably only seen it in movies. But, now I believe we have overcome that.”

Another challenge is understanding the market. Sushen says, “Each city is different. Screening classics such as 12 Angry Men worked in Mumbai and in Bengaluru, but in Hyderabad, it didn’t work at all. So, we basically have to know what kind of audience we are catering to.”

Nikita, who is also a copyright lawyer, says: “One major challenge we started with and overcame is the licensing. We want people to know that films have a certain value associated with them. In India, we are not very familiar with IP laws. So making sure that our films are acquired in a legal way is one of the standing points of our company.”

She adds, “People have been very receptive. This gave us the validation that yes, there is a space in India for something like this.”

As for the response so far, Ila Mishra, who watched Home Alone 2 at VR Bengaluru on Christmas Eve 2017, says: “I went with friends and family and it was a great bonding experience. It was very cozy and the food available was good.” Anna S, who took her then three-year-old daughter for a screening of My Neighbor Totoro at The Courtyard last year, says: “We took our blankets and camped out. It was a lovely experience. I am waiting for my daughter to get older so she can really appreciate it.”

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