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Multiplying Demand for Cleaning Multiplexes

One of the fast-rising industries in the entertainment segment beside cinemas is the cinema theatres or the multiplexes as we call it today. Registering an overall growth at 9% consistently year on year, individual multiplexes are growing between 30-50% annually in the last few years. The need for specific and suitable cleaning solutions for multiplexes that barely get a bracket of 10 minutes between shows to give viewers a clean hall, is growing correspondingly. Mrigank Warrier puts together the intricacies of cleaning multiplexes vis-à-vis the rising market for cleaning solutions in the entertainment industry.

Do you remember what a multiplex auditorium looks like at the end of a film? Popcorn is strewn everywhere, soft-drink cups are leaking sodas, and bits of food are scattered on the floor. Now recollect what a theatre auditorium looks like when you enter it before a show: clean, welcoming seats, with not a speck of dirt, and no litter whatsoever. What is responsible for this rapid transformation of the auditorium from dirty to pristine? A housekeeping team that sweeps in between shows, and uses a variety of cleaning machines and chemicals to ensure that each seat is clean for each patron before each show.

Now imagine the number of seats in each auditorium, multiply this by the number of shows an auditorium has from early morning to late at night, multiply that by the number of auditoria in each multiplex, and multiply this by the number of multiplexes in India: this is the business potential of the cleaning industry in multiplex facility management.

First, some background. Single-screens are on their way out in India, while the number of multiplexes as well as the total number of screens is rising. India has around 2200 multiplex screens at present; it is expected to cross 3000 this year. PVR and Cinepolis, two of the market leaders in the multiplex industry, aim to have 1000 screens each by 2021, while Carnival is targeting 2000 screens in the same period. In South India alone, the multiplex count is expected to double in the next two years.

The area of each auditorium is about 5000 sqft. Each multiplex usually has 4-6 screens; the newer ‘megaplexes’ have ten screens under one roof. As more and more malls are added to India’s retail space, almost everyone is accompanied by the construction of an adjoining multiplex. These vast facilities are visited by people who pay a significant amount of money to enter, and who hence expect the highest level of service and cleanliness.

Despite this construction boom, the multiplex sector is far from saturated. India has just eight screens per million movie-watchers, as compared to an average of 40 in the West. We will need almost 20,000 screens to satisfy the desires of our cinema-going population. In the next few years, a majority of multiplexes will be constructed in Tier 2 or Tier 3 centres, either by converting existing singlescreens or as greenfield projects.

The expansion of urban centres and the availability of affordable real estate for construction, as well as the expanding Indian middle-class and the rise in its disposable income, are promoting the penetration of multiplexes in peri-urban areas and smaller towns as well. Patrons of these multiplexes have the same aspirational standards as city-dwellers, and expect the same levels of cleanliness.

Scope and challenges of multiplex housekeeping

Apart from the auditoriums themselves, other areas of the multiplex, such as the entrance lobbies, escalators, elevators, corridors, family areas, Food & Beverage areas, projection rooms and washrooms need to be cleaned as well. Even exit areas, through which the audience streams out at the end of a show, need to be kept spic and span.

While multiplexes may experience footfalls similar to that of airports, hotels and commercial spaces, there are certain intrinsic factors that set them apart. Unlike the others, multiplexes have limited space for washrooms; a single highuse one may have as many as 90 urinals in the men’s room. Keeping each urinal and cubicle hygienic for each and every guest, while the washroom is constantly in use, is a tough task.

Unlike other facilities, bigger walk-behind/ride-around machines cannot be used, as each area of the multiplex is full of people from morning till night, and such machines cannot navigate the crowd. Bigger machines cannot be used in the auditorium as the space between rows of seats is too little, while using smaller machines reduces the efficiency of cleaning. Designing products exclusively for use in multiplexes and taking their unique needs into account, is an untapped market.

According to Asha Pathania, National Head Housekeeper – PVR Cinemas, the biggest challenge is that all cleaning must be done out of sight of patrons. She says, “When people buy a ticket, they feel entitled to a certain level of service. But unlike in a hotel, where you meet and greet a guest, in multiplexes, guests don’t want to see cleaning staff. They’ve come to see the film and be immersed in it; they don’t want to be interrupted.” This restriction limits the time available when the staff can clean any area.

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