Fancy watching latest movie immersed in a bathtub with friends?
Open-air cinema is not a novelty in India, but an engineer has tried, quite successfully, to turn it into an ‘experience’. And the GenZ and millennials are liking it
In the list of quirky things that GenZ and millennials do to avoid boredom on weekends, a new activity has come up. It’s called bathtub cinema, and it’s exactly what you’re imagining it to be. A big screen, several bathtubs, and people chilling in the water while watching their favourite movies.
Curated by Sunset Cinema Club, an “open-air events” company started by Sahil Kapoor, the bathtub cinema is exactly what Kapoor had set out to create, even when he didn’t know it at first. He switched from an engineering background to SCC because of his passion for creating experiences for himself and for others, says he.
When Kapoor first started this company in 2017, he did not realise there’d be such a huge market for the events he had in his mind. At the first screening he organised, he did not expect more than 50-60 people to register, but the show got sold out in two days. That gave him the courage to start the “Movies and Chill” festival that very same year.
Today, five years down the line, Kapoor proudly shares, “We are in five cities, have done events in more than 14 cities, and hundreds of screenings later, we still hold the same ambition.”
In May this year, Kapoor’s company even collaborated with the Institut français India (an institute of the Embassy of France in India), where they brought together French foods and French films, and especially curated both to give their audience a sneak peek into the French culture and cuisines. Kapoor says they wanted the event to be just as special and magical for the audience as it was for his company, since it was his first time partnering with an Embassy.
However, this wasn’t the first time that SCC mixed the “cafe” and “cine” worlds together. But it was definitely the first time they moved out of their comfort zone, that is “movie food”. It might seem trivial, but movie food is a whole genre in itself- nacho, fries, burgers, sandwiches- they add to your cinema watching experience.
Kapoor says they also try to align the kind of food with the film they’re screening and the venue they’re screening it at, for a “whole package” experience. So you watch Fast and Furious when you’re in a drive-in cinema and you watch Jaws when you’re in a bathtub cinema.
Five years of running SCC have been a roller-coaster ride for Kapoor. Kapoor knows he isn’t the first one to “introduce” the concept of open-air cinema in India, but he believes his company added the notion of an “experience” to it.
From convincing hotels to partner with the club as venues, to changing their whole model to drive-in cinemas when Covid hit and people started fearing crowds, to realising that their content and movie choices need to change with geography and language, the club has seen numerous ups and downs since it got established.
Interestingly, they solved the content problem by opening it up to the people. Now, a lot of their screenings are decided by polls they conduct on their social media handles. People pick and choose the movies they want to watch, and the club obliges.
What can’t be decided by social media, is taken care of by data analytics. The location, the demography of people who attend these screenings, the days of the screening, also hold a lot of importance then, explains Kapoor.
For instance, Home Alone is a must on Christmas. Movies revolving around friendships on Friendships’ Day and cheesy romantic movies on Valentine’s weekend, perfect matches! Oh, and scary horror movies on Halloween for the win!
What Kapoor has noticed over the years is that a lot of young couples attend these screenings because it’s a different experience from the traditional date-night options people have. You have a movie, food, sitting under the stars, and privacy, at your comfort with SCC, says Kapoor. It’s really an escape from the world, he smiles.
Does his company compete with cinema halls then? Kapoor doesn’t think so. He says that he’s not in the movie business, but in the “outdoor events” business. So while they don’t have any direct competition, their indirect competition is a concert or some other outdoor activity.
With bigger plans, Kapoor hopes to add more activities and experiences for cinema-watchers in the future. But for now, he plans to beat the heat in his bathtub, watching his favourite film.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)