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Business News/ Industry / Regional films lag even as Hindi box office soars
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Regional films lag even as Hindi box office soars

Smaller regional language industries such as Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati saw a dip in footfalls and revenue in 2023 despite ticket prices not rising

This comes in a year when Hindi language box office collections may have crossed the ₹5,000 mark. (HT)Premium
This comes in a year when Hindi language box office collections may have crossed the 5,000 mark. (HT)

NEW DELHI : Smaller regional language industries such as Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati saw a dip in footfalls and revenue in 2023 despite ticket prices not rising, according to media consulting firm Ormax. This comes in a year when Hindi language box office collections may have crossed the 5,000 mark.

Film industry experts attribute it to a challenge of quality content in these markets. They have also been hit by the influx of bigger budget productions from Hindi Tamil and Telugu cinema. Further, the smaller regional industries had not made many sales to OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms during the pandemic, which is why a bigger slate was ready and available for theatres in 2021 and 2022. Films are no longer releasing at the same pace.

According to the Ormax Box Office Report 2023, gross box office collections for Kannada films shrank a staggering 61%, while those of Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati cinema shrank between 10% and 25% in 2023 when compared to 2022. Excluding the two pandemic-affected years, Malayalam footfalls dropped below the 70-million mark for the first time since 2015, while Kannada footfalls dropped by 63%, and at 30 million, were even lower than the pandemic-impacted year of 2021. Comparatively, Hindi films saw footfalls of 275 million in 2023.

“While the number of annual releases might have resumed post covid, the competition for audience attention has intensified," Devang Sampat, CEO, Cinepolis India said. “This heightened competition underscores the importance of strategic marketing, compelling content, and innovative distribution strategies for regional films to maintain their market share and profitability. Audiences are common for content, and while 2023 belonged to Bollywood, it is expected that it will be at the expense of regional content. In general, in 2023, these industries failed to bring top drawer content while Bollywood did well."

“While increased competition from higher-budget films is a factor, it's not exclusively a post-pandemic trend," Sanket Kulkarni, head, business development (theatrical) at Ormax said. “The extent to which this factor affects different native industries varies due to the diverse consumption habits in certain cosmopolitan markets. In these markets, audiences are open to watching theatrical content in languages other than their own, making it crucial for native releases to offer a unique proposition to succeed at the box office."

According to Ormax Media's Sizing The Cinema Report 2023, 84% of theatre goers in Maharashtra watch Hindi films, while only 46% watch Marathi films. Similarly, in Kerala, over 50% of theatre goers watch Tamil films.

To be sure, trade experts point out the drop in box office may seem more drastic given that languages like Kannada delivered multiple hits like KGF: Chapter 2, Kantara and 777 Charlie in 2022, resulting in a higher base effect. “Even one film can make a big difference to the year’s numbers. That said, pre-pandemic or now, our business continues to be driven by Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and English films, followed by Marathi and Gujarati," said Amit Sharma, managing director, Miraj Entertainment, which operates multiplex theatres.

The aspiration to make pan-India films that can be dubbed in Hindi to reach out to wider audiences has not served several industries well, according to film trade experts. Unlike Tamil and Telugu actors who have benefited from Hindi dubs of their films premiering on satellite television, faces from Malayalam, Kannada or Marathi cinema are not as well known in other markets. This is a challenge when content from these industries is below par and not culturally rooted enough to make an impact even in its home state.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lata Jha
Lata writes about the media and entertainment industry for Mint, focusing on everything from traditional film and TV to newer areas like video and audio streaming, including the business and regulatory aspects of both. She loves movies and spends a lot of her free time in theatres, which makes her job both fun and a bit of a challenge given that entertainment news often just talks about the glamorous side of things. Lata, on the other hand, tries to find and report on themes and trends in the entertainment world that most people don't notice, even though a lot of people in her country are really into movies. She’s a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.
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Published: 09 Mar 2024, 06:30 AM IST
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