Bollywood has a prosperous future as long as we push boundaries and look at ourselves as a creative industry rather than regard films as a ‘product’
Managing Director, Sony Pictures Entertainment, India
As a studio that has been in India for over eight decades, we have been witness to an era of trials and triumphs that have led the industry to where it is today – it’s far more structured, transparent, technologically advanced and professional than at any other time in its history.
India’s homegrown film families that have been in production for decades have also moved to (and many are still moving) a quasi-studio model with increasing focus on content, which continues to be both a challenge and an opportunity.
Content is the King
Content has to drive the business and has to be bigger than any other part of the industry function. Nurturing and investing in good writers who have the imagination to break through the clutter and create cinema that’s different and yet entertaining has to be the biggest priority for all of us.
It’s content that brings audiences back to the theatres, again and again. Today, if Sultan is a huge hit, it’s not just because Salman Khan is a superstar; it’s also because he is trying out newer roles that are not caricatures of his stardom. He is pushing the limits, much like Shah Rukh and Aamir, who are all set to engage audiences with very exciting roles in their upcoming films.
Apart from good writing, as an industry, it’s important to invest in new talent. Today, if Ranveer Singh is considered one of the biggest stars of our times, it is because there was an Aditya Chopra who saw the potential in him and the rest is history.
Karan Johar successfully did that with his ‘students’ of the year and gave the industry new faces who could carry films on their shoulders. Among other things, the advantage of injecting new talent in the industry is – greater options to try differentiated content. It holds true for Hollywood studios as well.
At SPE, each of our recent releases, like Angry Birds, Don’t Breathe and Shallows, has gone on to do huge business globally. The interesting part is that compared to many of the tent pole films, led by Hollywood’s leading stars, that released in the same period, the revenue margins of these films made on small to moderate budgets were higher.
That’s because content was the driving force and that’s what drove audiences to cinemas! Speaking of Hollywood, one often hears that Hollywood is eating into Bollywood’s share without realising that Hollywood is also helping increase the market. There is always room for quality content, and as long as the content is good, it works irrespective of language or genre.
Films Are Not A Product
It’s important, therefore, to focus on quality and not quantity. That’s because there is a huge gap between the number of films that the industry produces and the number of films that finally generate revenue. Apart from
that, we are yet to develop a workable business model.
Any creative industry will have to endure struggle when it comes to finding a foolproof success formula because it just doesn’t exist. Films are not a product that can have a ready formula and that is why there are bigger failures and fewer successes.
In recent years, we have had instances of people putting projects together – on paper you are assured of a big success because that’s what the numbers say but in reality, often, such projects just drown at the box office. So how do we address it? By putting films together, and not projects, because projects are based on just mathematical calculations.
The audience comprising of Indian diaspora in international markets are now more accepting of good quality content – a good film can really break out internationally in current times. The contribution of international box office to overall revenues stands at about 20 per cent, on average, and this is increasing.
Today, the UAE market is almost at par with the US market. With our strong international distribution network, we at SPE are looking at pushing boundaries further by even making non-traditional markets profitable for Indian films. So just like Hollywood has been able to make inroads across the world, with over two-thirds of its revenue coming from global markets, we as an industry have an opportunity of taking our content to
With growing Internet penetration and changing audience behavior, revenues from digital have seen an upward trend. We are seeing a growth in the number of OTT platforms who are keen on acquiring film content, which has been a shot in the arm for our industry. Also one of the effective ways to curb piracy is to ensure
that the film is available throughout its life cycle across platforms without there being a dark window period. Digital helps bridge that gap and ensures that if audiences want to legally watch content it is available and there is no excuse for people to turn to piracy.
Every screen count increase, presents an opportunity to improve the box office. Over the last few years we have seen a huge growth in screen count and quality theatres which offer a nice and clean environment to watch movies, which has helped bring people into the theatres in large numbers.
As things stand today, we continue to be a very under-screened, with seven screens per million as per the KPMG report – there is a huge opportunity for a faster and healthy growth in Tier II and Tier III markets. A massive surge in the exhibition sector in China has made it the second-biggest market in the world after the US, and given the size of our country and population, there is huge potential to replicate the same success in India.
In recent months, there have been a few instances of films being leaked online and that continues to be a sore point for the industry. The recent ban on the use of torrent sites is one of the steps in that direction. Piracy in India is roughly leading to a loss of about Rs.5,000 crore, and roughly 50,000 jobs per year, as per a study done by Deloitte in association with ASSOCHAM, and as an industry we need to work collectively with the government authorities and come up with mechanisms that can tighten piracy laws. With GST on the anvil, it will hopefully rationalise the entertainment tax structure and will positively impact
The Future is Bright
Hopefully, all of this, coupled with increased awareness that quality content at the right price and changing paradigms of doing business, will bring in audiences to cinemas and make films successful. So while there may be a few naysayers who may be predicting a downturn in our industry, these newer opportunities are clear markers for the growth of our industry.