Is the box-office scenario getting better or worse?

In 2023, 12th Fail performed far better in multiplexes than at single-screens. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

At the recently held FICCI-FRAMES (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry) Convention in Mumbai, a report was released by FICCI-EY (Ernst & Young) regarding the box-office scenario. However, certain pointers in the detailing seemed a little off-the-mark, so I decided to discuss this with veteran distributor and exhibitor Raj Bansal.

Here are the pointers from the report and the senior trade expert’s comments where relevant:

1 Theatres’ footfalls fell from 993 million in 2022 to 900 million in 2023

A cogent explanation would be increase in ticket rates and even food and beverages (that is a theatrical experience). But after that come movies that are sparsely, if at all, promoted. Movies with weird titles (Three of Us, Farrey et al) added to the sharp decrease in ‘Theatre Quotient’ (what makes for worthwhile watching in movie halls in first week or pre-streaming).

2 Gross Collections in 2023 up by 15.3 percent over 2022

Gross collections are what theatres collect, before they pay a sizable chunk as Entertainment Tax, leaving them with ‘Nett’ collections that are divided between exhibitors (theatre owners) and distributors (and producers) as per individual deals. Raj Bansal agrees that 2023 was the best year he has seen in terms of gross revenue due to increased ticker rates and high grossing movies like Gadar 2, Jawan, Pathaan and Animal.

3 In 2023, growth in gross single-screen collections was greater than in multiplexes

Bansal finds this debatable because ticket rates in ‘plexes increased much more than in single-screens and the actual figures were also higher.

4 The pre-pandemic level of footfalls (in 2019, it was 1.46 billion and it has come to 900 million in 2023) has not been reached.

This is true enough. Again it is the pricing and the worth of and awareness of the movies released. Also, digital and online domestic avenues of entertainment have evolved in the last four to five years substantially.

Despite great theatrical business, many preferred to wait for Animal to stream before watching it. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

5 Cost of watching movies is higher than streaming and social media and so people are willing to wait until a film streams.

That is bang-on, feels Bansal. Even with a high-grossing film like Animal, there were many who patiently waited for it to stream on Netflix, creating a kind of record viewership on it. The same held true for other 2023 blockbusters.

6 Fall in footfalls compensated by high ticket prices

That is true again, says Bansal. But obviously, I feel well-wishers of Hindi cinema would prefer an increase in footfalls, which would result in a higher turnover and ultimately even bigger numbers in gross revenue.

7 Less difference between what works on single-screens and multiplexes, as with 12th Fail.

Raj Bansal scoffs at this and terms it a flight of imagination. “A film like 12th Fail worked more at the multiplexes than single-screens, which continued to patronize massy fare like Gadar 2. There were barely four to five single-screens in the entire country in which 12th Fail did good business. It opened low and grew for a while, that’s all. But if the ‘plexes where it fared best had kept tickets in the Rs. 100 to Rs. 150 range, its business, which has now crossed Rs. 50 crore nationally, would have been in the range of Rs. 70 to 75 crore!”

8 Gross of South Indian films was Rs. 5200 crore, and of Hindi movies Rs. 5300 crore

This is likely to be true, says Bansal. South films (all languages) are now growing in popularity even in pan-Indian belts, while Hindi films, even when released all over India, are working selectively even outside the South.

9 Meaningful content is now best received on streaming and YouTube

Absolutely, feels Bansal!

10 Theatres are no longer a weekend tradition without careful assessment

Bansal agrees to this as well. Three factors mentioned in the report are all true, he says. One, that people judge whether to watch a film or not from trailers, two, from reviews of people they consider trustworthy (this will include word-of-mouth, of course!) and three, from its potential as a theatrical experience versus waiting for the streaming date.

11 Single-screens saw higher collections in 2023 than in 2022, 2021 and 2020

True, because 2020 and 2021 were pandemic affected, while 2022 did not have the massy blockbusters than 2023 had.

To sum up, people are visiting theatres less, and sadly, the most important reason is huge ticket rates and a corresponding spiral in food and beverage costs. Proof of this lies in the surge in ticket sales on days when tickets are reduced to Rs. 100, like National Cinema Day and so on.

As Bansal concludes, “The other factor is star prices, which should be brought down to earth. Together, these factors alone can truly boost industry fortunes. However, such business-oriented reports, even if only partially accurate, will keep coming every year!”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here