Reports about Rajinikanth's latest release Kabali said the film's first day gross collection was `250 crore. Here's why such numbers aren't possible for Indian films
New Delhi: Last week, amid the hype surrounding superstar Rajinikanth’s latest release Kabali, media reportssaid the film’s first day gross collection was ₹ 250 crore. The reports, ably aided by social media, went on to create an impression that the first day collection records for Indian films have been demolished beyond recognition.
A day later, it was reported that the figure was not only for box office collections but also included pre-release sales of various rights-theatrical, overseas and endorsements among others. Kabali’s producer, S. Kalaipuli Thanu, later said official figures are still awaited.
The media, however, didn’t pause to question if this kind of a figure is even probable for an Indian film in a single day.
Turns out, it’s not even remotely possible for an Indian film to do such numbers.
Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures, said as of today, it’s not likely for an Indian film to do ₹ 250 crore gross in a single day. “In terms of theatres, you need about 6,000 multiplex theatres, which will amount to about 12,000 screens, in India and about 2,500 screens overseas to do a number like ₹ 250 crore," said Gianchandani.
Kabali was released on about 4,000 screens globally, according to reports.
In Tamil Nadu, the entertainment tax is far lower compared to other states at 15%, with full exemption for Tamil films. There is also a cap on ticket prices in the state at ₹ 120. However, sources say theatres sold tickets for Kabali at rates far higher than the stipulated price.
Girish Johar, head of global revenue, Zee Studios, however, said, “Worldwide, if we can release in 5,000 screens then (the ₹ 250 crore gross) might be possible. Practically, it’s not possible but theoretically it is. It also depends on where you release your films in terms of screens."
The screen count in India is estimated to be between 8,000 and 12,000. While trade bodies like Ficci say the number is closer to 8,000, independent analysts say it could be near the 12,000 mark. In comparison to India’s screen density of six per million people, China has 23 screens per million.
“The film going population of India is 3-3.5 crore in a country of over a billion people. Assuming it’s a huge film for which everyone goes on day 1 itself and there’s 100% occupancy all over, then we can achieve ₹ 300 crore also. But we don’t get those many theatres, screens and people coming in," said Johar.
Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, is more circumspect: “After a few years, this ₹ 250 crore number won’t look so big, like today we talk about 100 crore or 50 crore which seemed too huge at one point. The ticket prices are going to rise gradually, the number of screens will. But ₹ 250 crore doesn’t seem possible in the near future."
Big Indian films like PK, Sultan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Baahubali or Kabali get released on nearly 4,500-5,000 screens globally. The ticket pricing for these films remains in the ₹ 300-350 range on an average.
“To get a number like ₹ 250 crore, theatres need to price tickets in a range upwards of ₹ 1,000, which is impossible as of today," said a trade analyst, on the condition of anonymity.
Higher ticket pricing, nonetheless, may not seem practical given the low occupancy across theatres in the country. “Even though we’ve the second highest population in the world, only 2-3% of it watches films in theatres. You need to have more screens and affordable tickets," said Mohan.
So, given the best screen count and ticket pricing, what’s the kind of number possible for films today?
“In India, what is possible at this stage, is a gross of about ₹ 85-90 crore (roughly, ₹ 55 crore net). A Hindi film obviously has the most potential to do so," said Gianchandani.
Given these realities, it’s staggering that reports of such a nature are suggested, thereby helping the hype around a film. “If such numbers are floated in the media, it affects the psyche of the audience. ‘The numbers are so great, we should catch up the movie’ they say. At the back of the mind, it does affect to a certain extent," said Mohan.
Kabali did an opening weekend business of over ₹ 110 crore, significantly lower than the earlier reports.
With doubtful figures floating all around, from screens to collections, and the producers being the only source of information, the credibility of the numbers and those reporting them get dented with each false report.
“Collections don’t match up to reported numbers. There is no single tracking system. Multiplexes don’t come out with reports. There is so much fudging of numbers and one can’t independently verify these. There must be more accountability than exits at the moment," said the trade analyst cited above.