With the second half of 2017 underway, now is a good time to take stock of how the film trade fared in the first six months of the year, and based on that evidence, try and make sense of the trajectory our business is on.
Take a look at the table below that compares the Hindi film collections of H1, 2017 with those of the last few years:
The way to read this table is: 111 Hindi films released during the first six months of 2016, cumulatively collecting Rs 1,025 crore net at the domestic box office, for an average of Rs 9.24 crore per film. The year eventually ended with aggregate domestic collections of Rs 2,791 crore.
Let’s look at the positives first.
With cumulative collections of almost Rs 1,410 crore, the first half of 2017 was our most remunerative ever. By a fair margin at that – almost 40 per cent better than last year’s numbers and around 20 per cent higher than the previous best, recorded in 2013. While the sheer number of releases (a record 113) meant that the average collections per film weren’t similarly record-breaking, the figure of almost Rs 12.5 crore per film still weighed in at a decent Number 3 in the charts and represents a healthy 35 per cent growth over 2016’s corresponding figures.
Rounding off the good news, as many as five films – Raees, Jolly LLB 2, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, the Hindi dubbed version of Baahubali: The Conclusion and Tubelight – notched up collections in excess of Rs 100 crore each at the domestic box office, the highest number of films to have done so in the first half of any year.
And that, pretty much is where the glad tidings end and the cracks behind the apparently grand façade start to appear.
The fact that the seemingly healthy topline included five centurions itself offers a clue to the real lay of the land for the vast majority of the other releases during the period. And that becomes even more obvious when you realise that just one film – the Hindi version of Baahubali: The Conclusion – accounted for more than a third of the total collections during these six months.
The extent to which the record-breaking collections of H1, 2017 are propped up by the performance of a handful of films becomes painfully clear when you start breaking down the numbers. The table below illustrates how the statistics start rapidly deteriorating once you progressively remove the top earners:
While an average collection of less than Rs 12.5 crore per film is not awe-inspiring to begin with, it loses more than a third of its value with the removal of just one film, Baahubali: The Conclusion, from the equation. And after you take away the Top 5 films that contributed almost 70 per cent to the total business, you are already down to around Rs 4 crore per film. From that point on, this downward spiral gains further steam. So much so that once you go beyond the Top 25 films, the films that remain are literally left scrambling for crumbs, with collections – Rs 14 lakh on average – that wouldn’t even cover the listing advertisement budget of each film.
In essence, 80 per cent of the films that released in the first six months of 2017 collectively contributed less than 1 per cent to the box-office earnings during that period. That is the grim reality that lies beyond the record-breaking numbers we have witnessed in the year so far.
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we all know that the second half of the year typically contributes much more than the first. So if this year too remains true to that trend, then we are on track to go beyond 2013’s chart-topping performance and record our highest-grossing year ever. However, even if we do achieve that feat, as the foregoing points attest, our business is by no means in the pink of health.
Indeed, if our performance evokes any colour at all, it is the colour red – as seen across the reams of bankrupt P&L statements and also the multitude of releases slaughtered at the box office.