India sees surge in movie goers but challenges remain

  • An Ormax report revealed that India’s film industry witnessed a significant revival in audience numbers in 2023, but continues to struggle with maintaining repeat visits

Lata Jha
Updated23 Apr 2024
Trade experts suggest that there is at least a 20-25% dip in footfalls that may persist, as viewers increasingly turn to home viewing options and as cinemas become more expensive, premium spaces. (File Photo)
Trade experts suggest that there is at least a 20-25% dip in footfalls that may persist, as viewers increasingly turn to home viewing options and as cinemas become more expensive, premium spaces. (File Photo)

India’s film industry marked a significant recovery in 2023, with 157.4 million people attending the cinema at least once, a 29% increase from the previous year and surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 8%, according to a report by media consulting firm Ormax.

However, despite these impressive numbers and box office revenues exceeding 12,000 crore for the first time, the growth in footfalls lagged, indicating that while more people are visiting theatres, they are doing so less frequently than before the pandemic.

Trade experts suggest that there is at least a 20-25% dip in footfalls that may persist, as viewers increasingly turn to home viewing options and as cinemas become more expensive, premium spaces. This shift risks alienating a significant portion of the population from the theatre-viewing experience and suggests a challenging future for smaller-scale, content-driven films without star power. 

Consequently, the industry may continue to rely heavily on a few, big-budget, star-driven titles.

Also Read: Why producers are getting cold feet about big-budget films

As per the Ormax report, based on research conducted in January 2024 among 8,500 Indian audiences across both urban and rural areas, these 157.4 million cinema-goers contributed to 943 million footfalls at the domestic box office in 2023, which comes to an average of six films watched per person, across all languages.

Hindi-language cinema saw the most significant growth, with its audience rising to 92 million, a 58% increase over 2022. Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada films witnessed a minor drop in audience shares, while Malayalam cinema experienced a 19% increase in audience, rising from 10 million in 2022 to 12 million in 2023.

"With a history of more than 100 years and 12,000 crore plus box office, the Indian film industry needs and deserves a study of this nature and stature. While it is well understood that the theatrical business has made a sound recovery post the pandemic, this report quantifies the recovery, at the level of markets, languages and demographics, leading to a deeper understanding of India’s theatre-going population,” Sanket Kulkarni, head, business development (theatrical) at Ormax Media, said in a statement.

With a gross box office of 12,226 crore, 2023 became the first-ever year to cross the 12,000 crore mark at the India box office, surpassing 2019 ( 10,948 crore), according to the Box Office Report: 2023 by Ormax, primarily due to an increase in ticket prices.

Meanwhile, despite the increase in cinema-goers, annual footfalls have not kept pace, suggesting that while more people may have gone to cinemas, they haven’t done so often enough.

The year 2023 registered 943 million footfalls, a growth over 2022, but much below the pre-pandemic level of 1,030 million in 2019. Further, while more than 1,000 films were released, the top 10 films alone contributed 40% of the year’s total box office. The average ticket price grew by 9% over 2022, and is now 22% higher than the pre-pandemic (2019) level.

The contrast is especially evident in domestic footfalls for Hindi language films, which stand at 275 million in 2023 as compared to 341 million in 2019 even though box office touched 5,380 crore in 2023 as compared to 4,831 crore in 2019.

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