Films failing at box office leave cinema halls in major crisis as they suffer losses
With Bollywood films not faring well at the box office, things are becoming worrisome for the cinema halls across India. Experts weigh in on the reasons.
The resurgence of the big screen following the pandemic-induced hiats has brought a glimmer of hope to the film industry. However, the business is far from returning to normalcy as Bollywood films fail to draw the expected response at the box office. And it is turning out to be a worrisome situation for cinema halls across India.
If we talk about this year, only a handful of projects from the Hindi film industry such as Pathaan, Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan and The Kerala Story have fared well at the box office. Lack of footfalls at the theatre is creating a loss scenario for the theatre owners. Recently, PVR INOX Ltd reported a consolidated net loss of ₹333.99 crore for the fourth quarter that ended on March 31, 2023, revealing that they are planning to shut nearly 50 loss-making cinema screens in the next six months.
“At the moment, the biggest sufferers are not the producers or the distributors but the exhibitors. When films don’t work, the theatres are the first to be hit. The producer can take time and plan next films, and the distributors can take a decision to not release a few films for a certain period. But the exhibitors need to have one or two films every week. And the exhibition sector is bleeding at the moment, with many theatres closing down,” says trade expert Taran Adarsh, adding, “it is a very grave scenario at the moment”.
A report by Ormax revealed that while Hindi is the most-watched language, with 5.8 crore audience, the Hindi theatre-going universe has shrunk by 21.5 percent from the pre-pandemic time. It also stated that India box office revenue crossed the ₹10,000- crore mark, but footfalls remain lower than the pre-pandemic levels.
According to trade expert and producer Girish Johar, the first quarter of 2023-2024 was 30-35 per cent behind the 2018-2019 quarter. Expensive ticket price is one of the reasons behind the drop in footfalls,
Explaining the ticket business, trade expert Atul Mohan shares, “You can’t price ₹600 for a ticket for Shah Rukh Khan film, and a small or medium budget film. The pricing system has to be different, especially when it is known that people are aware that the content will soon come to the OTT space. Cinema is a business of volume. Apne mehnga karke phele hi disconnect kar diya hai “.
“The dynamics of the box office have completely changed. Much higher superiority quality of content is available at the push of a remote button. Now, venturing out to the cinema is for a larger experience. It has become an expensive proposition. The single outing for a family turns out to be over ₹5000. And if the content is sub standard, you feel cheated. That is why only tent-pole projects are working, and other projects are crashing from the first show itself,” he adds.
Here, Devang Sampat, CEO, Cinepolis, adds, “The first quarter was disappointing, apart from Pathaan and few south Indian tiles, nothing worked. We are not seeing this for the first time, and hope to be back to normal soon”.
Things might seem grim at the moment, but industry insiders are expected to pick up going forward with films such as Maidaan, Satyaprem Ki Katha, Adipurush and Jawan slated to release.
Breaking down the scenario, Gautam Dutta, Co-CEO, PVR INOX Ltd, shares, “The recent concerns are not significant, and should settle down in the near future. The Hindi cinema industry has always been resilient and has managed to bounce back from difficult periods in the past…We surely expect the Hindi cinema to make a comeback with new exciting releases in the coming months”.
Here, Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at the Capital’s Delite Cinema, shuns the idea that it is a dark time for cinemas, because Hollywood films as well as South Indian titles are filling the gap.
“For instance, the third part of Guardians of the Galaxy worked well, and the new instalment of Fast and Furious is also seeing good business with 85 percent occupancy. People want good content, no matter what language,” he says.
Director Anees Bazmee also feels it is wrong to blame Hindi films for the closure of cinema halls in India. “There are times when cinema halls don’t work at one point, but some other place. It can’t be blamed on the poor performance of Bollywood films in the theatre. Yes, pictures are not working because they are not good, and people are used to watching content on OTT. But it is not right to blame that cinema halls are closing because Hindi films are not working. There are many factors involved,” he ends.