New Delhi: Ten days after their release neither of the two big Diwali movies—Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay—have hit the Rs.100 crore mark. While the former managed to touch Rs.102 crore only by its second Tuesday, the latter minted Rs.90.5 crore. For trade experts who follow and swear by the festive holiday weekends in India, these figures are nothing short of underwhelming. But Johar’s romantic drama and Devgn’s action thriller are not the only movies to have let the Indian box office down this year. Trade experts estimate a drop of at least 10-20% in overall net box office collections as compared to the Rs. 2,800-2,900 crore in 2015.
And it’s primarily a case of content not being up to the mark.
For instance, the only films to have truly hit the mark in the second half of the year are Salman Khan-starrer Sultan, Akshay Kumar’s crime thriller Rustom, Amitabh Bachchan’s courtroom drama Pink and director Neeraj Pandey’s sports biopic MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, starring Sushant Singh Rajput. These netted Rs.300.45 crore, Rs.127.49 crore, Rs.65.39 crore and Rs.132.96 crore, respectively. Earlier in the year, apart from films like Airlift and Baaghi, both of which recovered their costs, there were more misses than hits.
“It’s like only one film in 6-7 weeks does decently well and the rest are all washouts at a time when there are often 5-7 releases per week,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, adding that even in Dhoni’s case, the collections don’t justify the massive cost of production. “You can’t survive on 10-12 movies a year.”
Mohan estimates a drop of at least Rs. 300-400 crore in overall India box office collections as compared to last year even if some seemingly promising upcoming films do well. And that does not have to do with just Hindi films. Compared to last year’s war epic Baahubali: The Beginning that earned Rs.600 crore, there haven’t been any significant regional film releases this year. Even Rajinikanth’s revenge drama Kabali only made Rs.110 crore on its opening weekend.
Then there are ancillary reasons. Trade experts also attribute the falling theatrical rates to piracy, high ticket prices and an under-screened market. The Indian film industry continues to lose around Rs.50 billion in revenues and over 50,000 jobs every year due to piracy, according to a report by global advisory firm Deloitte. Besides, mushrooming of multiplexes in the country has led to the abolition of ticket rate caps, depriving a large part of the population of theatrical access. Compared to the 1980s and 1990s when rates could not be increased without the collector’s permission and remained within the Rs.30-50 range, today a movie ticket can even be bought for Rs. 500-700 if a film is very exciting or have differential pricing for different shows and days of the week.
An under-screened market doesn’t help either. Mohan points out that for every 100 single screens that are shutting down, at least 500 multiplex screens should come up. Currently, only about 50 do.
Plus, there is the digital boom.
“Along with digital premieres of movies, there are so many short films and web series being made for an online audience,” said film trade and business expert Girish Johar. “And everyone’s doing it —be it Milap Zaveri, Shirish Kunder or Ekta Kapoor.”
While digital content may not be a direct or immediate threat to theatricals, Johar estimates that they take away at least 1-5% of box office collections for the simple reason that “the audience gets so many more options”.
But there might not entirely be reason to worry yet. Beginning with Farhan Akhtar and Shraddha Kapoor-starrer Rock On!! 2 this week, there is Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt’s slice-of-life romantic drama Dear Zindagi this month, Vidya Balan’s reprisal of her award-winning take in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani 2 and Aditya Chopra’s contemporary love story Befikre in December. The year should end on a positive note with Aamir Khan’s biographical sports drama Dangal.
“There are a few cards remaining on the Bollywood front. Plus, there is a hugely impressive Hollywood line-up which I believe will give tough competition to Hindi and regional films,” Mohan said.
All figures in this story have been sourced from movie website Bollywood Hungama