There’s no doubt that Multiplex Theatrical & Media companies like PVR and Sony India are taking note of the huge response Anime movies and films are receiving in India and throughout the world. Fans went nuts over Jujutsu Kaisen 0‘s release, resulting in huge Box Office collections In India of over 5.40 crs over the first weekend.
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero broke records in the US & One Piece Film Red is currently breaking records in Japan and is set to stretch the limits of Indian & US Box Offices.
Many clubs from around the country organized group watches, watch parties and events celebrating these films. And the city of Chennai isn’t an exception.
There has been a bunch of unofficial watches in the city but Merchandise & Event Company Pop Circuit is trying to become an official player, acquiring permissions from concerned authorities to hold such events in a grand scale.
Things began with a small group watch of Jujutsu Kaisen 0, then moved to an independent event “Spark”, centering around the Ramayana Anime movie.
Nikhil Ravikumar, the founder of Pop Circuit, thought “Can we get much HIGHER?” and along came One Piece Film Red. The participant numbers for this group watch indeed went SO HIGH (more than 550 people). This is the 1st time Nikhil had experienced to handle such an amount of crowd.
Despite a long and exhausting day, he was still enthusiastic while answering our questions patiently, as he described the how the One Piece Film Red Group Watch & events surrounding it came into being, the coordination of Anime clubs in Chennai, PVR’s role and the future of such Anime-related events in the city.
While talking about the event itself, it all started with the Bangalore Anime Club informing him that PVR wanted a nationwide group watch. But unfortunately, it didn’t come to pass due to the country’s disjointed Anime fandom and clubs and the attempt ended up having a lot of backlashes instead.
“I did the base level work and told the others and PVR that we’re going to do exactly what we did for the JJK0 event. If the head office takes it on to a higher level, that would have been great. For the nationwide event plan, a lot of things were proposed, but there was nothing concrete. Not even an official mail” Nikhil told Animehunch.
So he decided to take charge of Chennai and bring many city-level clubs together for One Piece.
“So in Chennai, there are about 5-6 different Anime clubs and they don’t interact with each other. They are completely walled off. But in almost every club, you’ll find a lot of people following One Piece. So we saw it as an opportunity to bring all these clubs together because that’s the only time you’ll see Chennai Anime community as a whole,” he said.
Nikhil mentions there are some ongoing issues going on between the clubs but their leaders saw the fruit in coming together after all this time.
“It was very difficult before because there’s all kinds of ongoing issues with all of these clubs. But this time it just so happens that all the club leaders at this particular time are sensible people and they saw what it means not just for their club, but for the entire community to come together and do it,” iterated the Pop Circuit founder.
He asserts that the core of the event is letting go of personal squabbles and coming together for the people of Chennai. “All the organizers of this event are treated as equals,” Nikhil declares.
There were 15 organizers for this event. And each of them were involved with different activities like, planning, coordinating and executing the cosplay, music and quiz events, along with photography and ticketing. There was a huge crowd for only collecting the tickets so managing the crowd was also a tough task for the new event planners.
While recollecting the Jujutsu Kaisen 0 group watch, he expressed how different this event was while dealing with PVR.
He only had to pay the exact number of tickets (around 210) he needed for pre-existing officially listed shows of JJK0. However, PVR Cinemas, for Film Red, gave 2 theatres for fan screenings at 3 p.m. & 6 p.m in SPI Palazzo, Forum Mall, Chennai on Oct 9 (Sunday). This caused an issue because there was practically no budget to fund this event. That means they had to call 546 people (273 seats for each show) and convince them to buy the tickets.
PVR Pictures provided his team with some official badges with One Piece characters on them as giveaways and the organizers decided to conduct events around them. Hence the cosplay, Anime quiz and music events were created.
But he thought things weren’t adequate for 550+ people, thus he believes that better strategies are required for future events.
“We were able to do enough giveaways & fun games thinking that, okay, this is a big event. Everyone here are saying this is a big event. But it was done literally on a zero budget. And it was pretty big for us. I think we need to rethink our strategies and understand what a big event is and how it differs from smaller events.” Nikhil admitted.
He also noted that, just like for One Piece, a similar large event could have occurred for JJK0 group watch if the other groups and clubs had united. But he put his foot down for One Piece because he realized that Chennai Anime fans have tremendous devotion to the series, perhaps more for than any other.
The issues he faced while conducting the events weren’t necessarily PVR’s fault. According to Nikhil, nobody expected a huge crowd of 550+ people to show up, making it the largest gathering of Anime fans in Chennai so far.
Problems started arising when people began to crowd around the cosplayers and began chanting character names loudly. The PVR Cinemas staff were concerned about everybody’s safety and cut short both the cosplay and quiz events. However, the organizers managed to keep the quiz & music events within the theatre itself.
There were some delays, changes in schedules, event structuring but all in all, thing worked out in the end, the Pop Circuit founder felt.
Now that it is over, Nikhil reflected on what he has learned and how things can improve in terms of planning, organizing and executing big Anime events in the future.
“We are getting ahead in terms of how we’re operating. Group screenings in particular. Because we now understand the way it’s done internally for PVR, which lets us tailor it to them. We understand how the seating layouts, ticketing systems and other legal formalities work. PVR have their own set of parameters, goals and concerns so we understand how to make things easier for them as well.”
A win-win situation for both, is what the young Anime enthusiast is looking for.
For the One Piece event, people had to fill up Google forms and physically collect printed tickets at the ticketing counter hours before the show even started. That caused large groups to form within the premises and many folks, including PVR staff, were burdened.
While talking about cosplay events in Chennai, Nikhil felt that things will only get better from here.
“I think I’ve never seen better organizations for Cosplay in terms of what was prepared for this One Piece event. Earlier there were no rooms for cosplayers to prepare themselves. But this time, we had separate rooms for men and women. That was a highlight for me. I was like, we’ve achieved something.” He spoke with a big smile.
He felt they’ve created a base for cosplay events going forward. However, he’s still unsure about its structuring. Like, when does it start? Is there any competition? How to coordinate cosplayers and move them accordingly? That’s something he’s yet to have an answer for.
Coming to the final question about PVR’s support to these organizers and clubs to whip up events surrounding Anime movie releases, Nikhil said the staff of PVR are very competent. He described their work etiquette as “positively corporate” which is something he wanted.
After all that is said and done, Nikhil feels he requires Official support from the top level executives of PVR.
In this case, he defines official support as “giving us the priority when Anime movies are released, along with discounts, official merch and places to conduct events in a seamless fashion”. These events should happen in a big way in Chennai but it hasn’t happened yet.
In other cities like Bangalore, 1500-2000 people showing up is considered the norm. So he felt PVR Chennai needs to think bigger. And the One Piece event his team have organized is just the beginning.
Nikhil feels that there is plenty of fan support but it needs to get noticed by the top management of PVR. If that is there, the Anime fans of Chennai can really see big events coming up in future.
“The local Chennai team is doing everything they can to support us but they don’t have many resources to be fully equipped to organize grand-scale events. We need high level support from the official PVR management to approach sponsors, which we are in a position to do after all these events. If the Top management approaches and provides us with 2-3 sponsors to start with. With their help, I feel we can really go places,” he said while concluding the interview.