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Phantom Films

As has often been reinforced during the course of various studies on this page, multiplex revenues are, by quite a large margin, the dominant contributor to the Indian theatrical market.

On average, more than three-fourths of the national box office for Hindi films is generated by multiplexes. However, for most films – especially the so-called ‘content-oriented’ cinema that often tends to be urban-centric in terms of demand – the takings from multiplexes are even higher than that already substantial average figure. Newton, for example, collected over 99 per cent of its domestic theatrical revenues from multiplex properties.

Another observation that repeatedly crops up on this page is that of too many releases chasing too few screens, leading to most films not being able to attain their true market potential.

Take, for example, the deluge of releases just two weeks ago (January 19), when as many as ten new Hindi releases decided to try their luck – Vodka Diaries, Nirdosh, Union Leader, My Birthday Song, Medal Pet Nahin Bharta, Haq E Sailani, Sabrang, Sanjana, Shaheed-E-Azaam and Humara Tiranga.

This, when there was already a holdover of the previous week’s three Hindi releases (1921, Mukkabaaz and Kaalakaandi), and when Tiger Zinda HaiJumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and The Post were still occupying a fair number of screens. Moreover, it was anyway going to be a curtailed first week for these films with the much anticipated Padmaavat releasing the following Thursday, besides having a substantial number of paid previews on Wednesday (January 24). Given this state of affairs, how many screens/shows – if any – were these ten new releases expecting to corner?

This week, we are combining these two themes (the dominance of multiplexes and the glut in releases) and asking ourselves a very simple question: leave aside inadequate number of shows and sub-par show timings, how many films are unable to secure any multiplex screens whatsoever?

Let’s admit it. Despite being in the film trade, how many of us were/are aware of even the existence of many of the titles we mentioned while listing the Jan 19th releases? To explore the phenomenon of these phantom films further, we dug into our data over the years to compile the table that follows. The numbers may surprise you, and it’s by no means a pleasant surprise.

Singles Only: Hindi Releases 2009-2017


Year Total Releases (Hindi Films) Released In
Not Released
In Multiplexes
Percent Of Films Not Released
In Multiplexes
2009 91 79 12 13
2010 150 131 19 13
2011 128 107 21 16
2012 149 126 23 15
2013 174 126 48 28
2014 195 121 74 38
2015 210 118 92 44
2016 226 135 91 40
2017 251 126 125 50


It’s a pretty simple table to read: In 2009, out of the 79 Hindi releases during the year, 12 films (or 13 per cent) did not screen in even one multiplex property. While that may seem bad enough, as you scroll down the table you realise that numbers have only kept worsening virtually every year. So much so, half of the Hindi films released last year, 2017, did not get to see the inside of a multiplex.

Mind you, the true picture is even more horrific than these already dreadful statistics. If we were to probe further into the screen count of those films that did get a multiplex release, we are likely to discover that most of them got barely a handful of screens and shows. But that is a different story for a different day.

For now, let’s grapple with the shocking fact that– even while taking these figures at face value– things have come to such a pass that every second Hindi film does not get access to the largest distribution platform that controls 80 per cent of the market.

That’s analogous to a global company like Apple or Coca Cola not being able to sell in the entire continents of Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. Or, to take a desi example,  for a pan-India company like ITC or Godrej to be banned from selling their products in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and Kerala. 

Obviously, in such a highly curtailed scenario, the companies involved would take immediate and drastic measures to massively cut back on their output and expenses. Yet we, the Hindi film industry, seem to be oblivious to this dire ground reality and continue to keep exponentially ramping up production year after year.

Perhaps the best way to describe this ruinous and ever-worsening situation is by paraphrasing the tag line of last year’s super hit Golmaal Again!!!: No logic, only tragic…

Nitin Tej Ahuja


Nitin Tej Ahuja


Vajir Singh

Chief Sub-Editor

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