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Report Scarred

The year kicked off in right earnest this week, with 2017’s first releases hitting the screens on Friday, and a host of A-league biggies waiting in the wings. Indeed, if you check out the release calendar compiled on the ‘Next Attraction’ page that follows, you will agree that this quarter has undoubtedly the strongest line-up of films we have ever seen in Q1 of any year.

Here’s hoping that we are about to embark on what turns out to be a champagne year at the box office… God knows we desperately need one!

It is no secret that 2016 wasn’t particularly memorable on the collections front. While a couple of monster hits, Dangaland Sultan, saved the year from being disastrous, and films like AirliftRustom, Pink and M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Storybrought sporadic cheer, the overwhelming emotions enveloping the trade through the year were those of despair and disappointment. So much so, that it even forced some pedigreed banners to hit the pause – if not eject – buttons on their production slates.

Now that 2016 is done and dusted, it is time to take stock of where the year finally ended up, numerically speaking, and what it tells us about the trajectory of our business. Take a look at the table below that compares the aggregate box-office collections of the last few years:

The way to read this table is: In 2010, Hindi films cumulatively collected Rs 1,537 crore, net of taxes, at the domestic box office, a gain of 27 per cent over the previous year’s collections. However, with a far greater number of releases that year, the per film average of Rs 10.24 crore represented a 23 per cent drop from 2009’s corresponding numbers.

The numbers speak for themselves and, unfortunately, they have a pretty sad tale to tell. Thanks to a late flurry from Dangal, 2016 just about managed to match the collections of the previous year, which in turn, were just a shade over 2014’s aggregate. And given the record number of films that released last year, the average collections per film have further fallen for a third year in a row. To put this in perspective: on average, films did better individual business when we launched this publication in 2009 than they are doing now, and that is a pretty unflattering comparison indeed.

Last year’s underwhelming performance is all the more unpalatable because 2016 saw releases from virtually our entire pantheon of superstars. So whatever else you may attribute this sluggishness to, you cannot blame it on any lack of firepower on our part.

What we also need to be mindful of, and this is something we will explore in greater detail in a future edition, is the fact that 2016’s topline – disappointing as it may be – actually conceals an even shabbier ground reality. With both Dangal and Sultan collecting in  excess of Rs 300 crore each, and six more films – Airlift, Rustom, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story,  Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Housefull 3 and Shivaay –  going past the century mark, in excess of 40 per cent of last year’s topline was generated by these 8 films alone. Ergo, you can imagine the horror stories endured by the bulk of the 218 other releases that also tried their luck last year.

In short, we have our work cut out this year, to not only erase only the nightmare that most of 2016 was, but also to snap out of the stagnation that has plagued the trade for over three years now. It’s not going to be easy, but then, if we were interested in an easy ride, we would be watching films and not making them, right?!

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