Nandu Ahuja (NA): Thank you, Box Office India, for this initiative to have all of us at the same table, and congratulations on your Sixth Anniversary issue and may there be many more to come. I think we should be discussing the growing importance of distribution in our trade and how distribution is as important as the creative part of filmmaking. How important is it for the distribution division of a film to be involved with the creative people, whether it is an individual producer or even a corporate house?
Sundaresan Kumar (SK): Take, for instance, the FMCG industry… there are people who make products and there are people who display them, but between the retailer, consumer and producer, it is the distributor who gives the product a platform. If you do not give it an appropriate platform, even a good product will not sell. For example, Bahubali – The Beginning was given a platform and that’s why it could deliver. If it had not got that kind of platform in Hindi, it wouldn’t have seen those numbers.
Anil Thadani (AT): Even though distribution is very important, at the end of the day, if the content is strong, the rest falls in place. It is very difficult for distributors to make a success out of a no brainer. So eventually, it’s the content that matters and it starts from the top and filters down to the bottom.
NA: That’s why, Anil, the integration between distribution and content makers is one of the most important things today.
Neeraj Goswamy (NG): In my experience, I believe there is a gap between content makers’ expectations and reality.
NA: (Cuts in) A huge gap.
NG: Every filmmaker wants his film to be assigned maximum screens. But when you come up with a smart distribution plan, it’s not always well-received. For instance, if you tell a filmmaker that his film is good and will gradually grow but it would be prudent to start small and go to the right cinema screens, he thinks – ‘Are you saying my film is a small film?’ So I guess educating filmmakers is still a challenge for people like us. We are trying to give them advice because we understand costs.
NA: I would like to point out that there is a myth about screens. People say ‘we want to release our films in X number of screens’. But people don’t understand that cinema count is more important than screen count.
AT: (Cuts in) But it was the distributors who started this trend, Nandu. You can’t blame filmmakers. The misconception of ‘the greater the number of screens, the bigger the numbers’ was started by us. As a distributor, when you say ‘these are my takings from so many screens’, it doesn’t mean anything.
SK: Anil, sometimes, that is said to make people happy. That’s what a producer or a big star wants to hear.
AT: But it is backfiring on us because convincing them otherwise is becoming difficult.
SK: I agree but it is also due to certain producers and content makers as well as the stars. They ask us what we can do for them, and to please them, we oblige.
Ritesh Arora (RA): It’s part of the PR exercise.
SK: Every film doesn’t need to get 3,000 to 4,000 screens.