Amitabh Vardhan, Managing director and CEO of the cinema chain, knows how to make you feel special – from the Special seat to the best popcorn
The way we watch movies and films has dramatically changed, as we grew accustomed to our TV sets and tablet screens and to on-demand streaming. But cinema theatres are here to stay, as they offer an experience that no TV screen and living room can match. Cine Grand is a fine example of that. Cine Grand is a part of a larger chain of cinemas in Bulgaria and Romania. Cine Grand Cinemas stand out through their flawless service, amenities like luxury seats, world-class 3D cinemas, finest food, booking app, virtual assistance and a great team. Mr Vardhan's achievements have already been recognised by Bulgarian businesses and society. He was declared CEO of the year for 2019 and Entrepreneur of the Year for 2021. Under his leadership, Cine Grand was announced Best Employer of the Year by the Career Show Awards 2022. How did he achieve this? What are his ideas for the future of moviegoing? We met with Mr Amitabh Vardhan to discuss this and more.
Why do we still need cinemas?
Cinemas are totally different from streaming platforms or any other form of showing movies. You go to the movie theatre not only to watch movies but also to socialise. TV series need several seasons to tell their stories, and movies need only a couple of hours. Movies are made for the bigger screen and have to be seen on a large movie screen to enjoy their grandeur.
What makes Cine Grand a different cinema experience?
Our motto is to make every customer “Feel Special”. At Cine Grand every customer is truly special to us. We, with our well-trained team, tailor-make each part of the experience – from the way we show movies to how we sell tickets and even serve the popcorn. Customers are most important to us, and we do everything for them to experience this.
What inspired you to such an approach?
I, as a person, want to receive the best quality service and experience wherever I go – and I believe that my customers also expect the same from us. Hence I wanted to give the same to Cine Grand customers which I expected from others.
What is the biggest challenge for you, as a manager, in Bulgaria?
My biggest challenge in Bulgaria is to continue giving the best even when the circumstances are not the best. Even when things are not looking good, you need to be able to smile, to make sure that your brand is able to deliver what it has promised.
Why did you decide to open cinemas in Bulgaria of all places?
Bulgaria is a country with a lot of potential. I saw how much it changed in the past 10 years and I feel 10 years from now it will be an absolutely different country. You only need to believe in Bulgaria and its culture, people, economy, and infrastructure. I am sure that Bulgaria will not disappoint you. It has never disappointed me; I am happy with my choice.
How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your business and moviegoing?
It affected both because of the lockdowns. However, we survived and we are thankful to our customers who returned, to the government that helped, and to our partners who stood with us. We are still feeling the impact of the pandemic, but we survived because we worked as a team and we adapted to the new reality. Before the pandemic, we took so many things in life for granted. The pandemic made us truly understand that human life is precious and every day is a special day.
What does your international experience show: are Bulgarian movie-goers different from the others?
Bulgarians love to watch movies, especially action movies, family-oriented dramas and comedies. What I have seen in Bulgaria is that when people like a movie, they have an appetite for watching it again and again. This is something unique for Bulgaria, in my opinion. They love Cine Grand salted, Rainbow and Caramel popcorn and everyone loves to eat and watch the movie.
What is the purpose of your virtual assistant Oscar?
When you visit cinegrand.bg, Oscar will give you an instant reply to 99% of the questions or problems you might have: what movies are scheduled, the future premieres and promotions, and other queries. It works 24/7 and is simple, but efficient. For the 1% of questions that Oscar is unable to answer, you can call our special customer service assistant lines.
How did Cine Grand deserve the title Best Employer of the Year by Career Show Awards 2022?
Our team is the most important asset to me and we take proper care of them. Without positive and friendly corporate culture, the quality of customer service wouldn’t be possible. I understand that the nature of their job puts them under a lot of pressure. This is why I am giving them the most important thing that I have: my time. All employees have my email and phone number and can contact me anytime. I have one-on-one meetings with them as a part of our Coffee with the CEO programme. We are not a company where people say: I have a problem but nobody listens. We care for everybody.
What is the future of cinema in your opinion?
Until there are stories to tell, cinemas will exist. Of course, design, format etc will change, but they will remain an important part of our lives.