Testimonials to the love affair that Indians have with cinema – and film stars – can be found everywhere – from the posters glued on the walls of small-town barber shops, to the hand-painted star portraits decorating bhel-puri carts, and the dedications screen-printed on autorikshaws, to the famous faces smiling down from billboards, or from television screens, espousing the virtues of a particular product or service.
Perhaps only cricket measures up as a pan-India obsession. Even so, one could argue that films have the edge, given that its base is more universal compared to the male-skewed cricket audience, as also the fact that interest in the sport fluctuates as per the current form of the Indian cricket team.
An imperfect though very revealing measure of the national popularity of our vocation is the fact that the list of the 10 most-followed Indian accounts on Twitter reads almost like a Hindi film superstar hall of fame, featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Hrithik Roshan and Akshay Kumar; and only the personal and official PMO accounts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi take the remaining two spots.
One would think, therefore, that visiting the neighbourhood cinema would figure near the top of, and very frequently on, the to-do lists of most Indians. But is that really so? To answer that question, we have compiled an estimate of the number of tickets sold – as opposed to the monetary value of collections that we regularly report – of some of our highest-grossing films. Take a look at the table below:
|Bajrangi Bhaijaan||3.50 crore|
|Dhoom 3||3.05 crore|
|Rowdy Rathore||2.95 crore|
|Ek Tha Tiger||2.70 crore|
|3 Idiots||2.60 crore|
|Tanu Weds Manu Returns||2.55 crore|
|Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani||2.55 crore|
|Chennai Expresss||2.50 crore|
|Bajirao Mastani||2.40 crore|
|Dabangg 2||2.20 crore|
|Happy New Year||2.15 crore|
|Krrish 3||2.10 crore|
|Bhaag Milkha Bhaag||2.10 crore|
|Prem Ratan Dhan Payo||2.05 crore|
|Housefull 2||2.00 crore|
*Estimated tickets sold, rounded-off to the closest 5 lakh mark
Well, the table is as easy to read as it is insightful. The bottom-line: even if you consider every ticket sold for our most-watched film ever, PK, as having been bought by a unique individual and not for a repeat viewing, that still means that less than 4 per cent Indians from a population of over 125 crore actually watched the film in a theatre.
That, we have to admit, is not really a very impressive number, especially when measured against the share of mind space that films occupy.
And, since we spoke of cricket earlier, the PK numbers are slightly less than the estimated 4.5 crore people who tuned into the telecast of this year’s IPL final between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore. However, before the pro-cricket brigade goes into raptures, we must point out that this is not really an apples-to-apples comparison. There is a huge difference between actually dipping into your wallet and making the effort to go to a cinema and watching a match virtually for free in your drawing room.
Well, as they say, depending on whether you have an optimistic or a pessimistic mindset, you can view the same glass as half full or half empty… or in this case, 96 per cent empty! Yes, it is true that the footfalls generated for even our bestselling products do not do justice to the size of our market as also the mass recognition and appeal of our industry. But the other way of looking at the same numbers is to appreciate the vast potential that remains yet untapped.
In other words, if we are able to clock collections in excess of Rs 300 crore with less than 4 per cent market conversion, it is not too impossible to imagine a film collecting over Rs 1,000 crore if it can get just 1 in every 10 Indians to buy a movie ticket. Easier said than done, of course, and it may seem like a far-fetched fantasy… but then, we are the dream merchants, aren’t we?!