News that PVR Cinemas has acquired SPI Cinemas has moviegoers worried about how the deal will affect service at the South Indian multiplex chain – especially the quality of its famed popcorn.
On Sunday, PVR, India’s largest movie exhibitor, announced that it was buying 71.7% equity, or 222,711 equity shares, in SPI Cinemas for Rs 633 crores. The Chennai-headquartered SPI Cinemas, formerly called Sathyam Cinemas, has branches in Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Mumbai.
Once completed, the acquisition will increase PVR’s screen count to 706 across 60 cities. The founders of SPI Cinemas, Kiran M Reddy and Swaroop Reddy, will continue to be associated with the business, PVR said.
Reports of the deal generated mixed reactions on Twitter, with moviegoers expressing their loyalty to the South Indian theatre chain.
At the top of the list of concerns was the fate of the theatre chain’s most esteemed product: its flavour-it-yourself popcorn. Customers can choose from an array of seasonings to garnish their popcorn at cinema halls.
On Monday, Nitin Sood, PVR’s Chief Financial Officer, told The Hindu that the South Indian chain’s food would remain untouched. “The food and the popcorn at SPI, which is close to every movie-goer, will remain,” he said.
But that did not stop moviegoers from worrying about the buttery snack.
The theatre chain sources its kernels from a farmer-owned co-operative in the United States of America, called Preferred Popcorn, which specialises in a variety of high-yield corn. “High-yielding corn leads to better-tasting popcorn,” Bhavesh Shah, Head of Experiences at SPI Cinemas, told The Hindu in January. “The low-yielding variety, like the kind we find here, tends to be dense and thick and doesn’t taste as great.”
The cinema chain acquired the seasoning from American brand Kernel Season’s and later got a local company to start making the same flavours. “Whenever we’ve tried to make changes, there has been major backlash,” Shah told The Hindu. “Our customers take it very personally.”