VK: In India, there is a study which shows that digital piracy is not harming India; it’s the cam-recordings that are taking place in cinemas.
NG: You would be surprised. Cam-recordings are not taking place in cinemas. Piracy starts with content that is shared among digital integrators. That’s why the quality of pirated DVDs has become so good. We are investigating the matter.
AT: If you unite, you can win this battle.
SK: That’s even more reason for standardisation.
NG: We do discuss this at the MPA level. Currently, we have got together some forensic people from overseas for this. When we have some concrete evidence, we will go after these people. It happened two weeks ago and we are still working on it.
AT: If you share this information with corporate houses, they can take preventive measures.
SK: To curb piracy, the industry as a whole needs to think about standardisation.
NA: I would like to discuss the platform release issue some more. I want everybody’s thoughts on that. How to justify the cost of marketing against a platform release?
VK: Marketing takes place in a controlled environment.
NA: What you are spending depends on the kind of film you have. I want to know how you justify this platform.
AT: Our digital cost is not very high. I am talking about using the Internet for advertising, now that is very cheap. Now when you localise a release, you can target only that market. You will have so many new options that will open up. Let say, you have created awareness in Mumbai, TV is not the only medium.
NA: Today with digital platforms, it will be difficult.
AT: If a dubbed film can earn `100 crore, then this too can be achieved.
SK: Nandu, whether it is difficult or not it depends on the content; the content has to be good but look at Hollywood. They have platform releases.
VK: Yes, they do.
NA: I don’t know.
VK: Take the example of Slumdog Millionaire and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, which starred Bradley Cooper.
AT: It was a very expensive film. Even he couldn’t do it.
NA: According to me, it is not possible right now.
AT: It’s the future, Nandu.
SK: Choose a market where media isolation is possible. If you are an FMCG company and you say you want to go to Tamil Nadu as a test market for a soap, you can do it because product isolation is possible. But we don’t have that kind of ecosystem. If I want to target only Mumbai city, what options do I have other than outdoor and print and radio?
VK: There are cable operators but again, that ecosystem has not developed. If we do it, the ecosystem will develop. My marketing cost for just Mumbai territory will come down to…
NA: (Cuts in) Can it be justified against the cost of the film? I’m just curious.
VK: It depends on which film you are making it for.
AT: What if you are making a small film?
NA: You can’t.
NA: Would you have preferred a platform release for Manjhi?
NG: Had the film not had the issues it had, then yes.
SK: Yes, if it brings down the cost, then why not?
NG: I think the issue with exhibitors is if you give it to one exhibitor, give it to all of them. If you are skipping the city as a whole, they wouldn’t have a problem.
NA: But there are multiple issues, na.
NG: Yes, but it is a work in progress and someone has to see where it goes.
NA: Digital piracy is a challenge.
AT: Exhibitors toh hai but first you are talking about the advertising, you are increasing your costs by releasing it pan-India.
NA: No, I feel with this, we are moving one step backward.
VK: On the contrary.
AT: It is a step forward, your numbers will increase, a good film will receive a pan-India release later and your numbers will come from everywhere.
NA: In fact, on the contrary.
AT: How did Rajshri get the numbers for Hum Aapke Hain Koun? If they had released the film across India, they wouldn’t have received the numbers they did.
NA: That was a different time.
AT: Nothing is different. Today, why do films that release on Friday get a superb jump on Saturday? Because word-of-mouth publicity is strongest today.
NA: Word-of-mouth and digital.
NG: That’s social media.
AT: Social media will filter pan-India and you will have better releases and better numbers. There’s also YouTube.
PJ: Even though you don’t do TV, it is convincing as well. If they are doing Manjhi content-wise, then the first problem they will face is of actor and actress.
SK: Let’s just say we all agree to disagree and move on to another issue.
NG: This is your theatrical experience.
VK: Theatrical experience is different, that window is different.
SK: What will happen is, even with Hollywood, there are some movies you will still prefer to watch on the big screen, so the quality of production and exhibition should improve. I was coming to this. All these platforms can coexist, provided the product allows that. There are some products that should go into Reliance 4G directly and not even come to theatrical.
VK: So, that will make a difference only to Jio; that is an altogether different ecosystem.
AT: No, why should every movie go to Jio?
SK: That’s what’s going to happen.
VK: That’s what I am saying; they can make a film for Jio.
SK: That’s what’s going to happen and for the exhibition industry to survive, they will have to improve production quality and make different qualities for different platforms. Even if you show me Bahubali one hundred times on TV, I would still prefer to watch it on the big screen.
VK: Internationally, there are a lot of films that go straight to DVD because the market for DVDs still exists. In India, they will go straight to the Internet.
AT: Overseas, Hindi films go straight to DVD, and that will start happening here too.
NA: They also enjoy a theatrical release. Both platforms will coexist and obviously theatre will remain the largest platform. It is not going to die.
SK: Cinemas aren’t vanishing but the product mix has changed.
VK: And you get more opportunities to make money.
SK: The exhibition quality has changed and so has the product mix.
VK: If you look at the learnings from the international market, 3D as a technology and the immersive experience it provides, most cinemas in the US or across the world are 3D or 4D enabled. In India, we haven’t seen 3D take off at all, especially in Hindi because I think if anything has to drive change here, it has to be local films. Hollywood films can do it up to a point only. Where and how do you think 3D will bring in that growth that we are seeking in distribution?
BOI: I think ABCD 2 was the latest example of 3D conversion.
PJ: I think it did. Revenue-wise, 3D prices are high. Plus first the 2D to 3D contribution was 20 to 25 per cent but in current times, you can ask this question because the revenue split is 45-55 per cent. 2D is also contributing 45 per cent. So now the question is, if we had not converted to 3D, would we have got the same audience and the same revenue? But in this case 3D, because of that extra revenue, made sense.
AT: Not extra…
PJ: … a little higher.
SK: My point is, 3D is an altogether different discussion. That is exactly my point but the problem is, TV internationally also is kind of settling down.
VK: But there is growth, yahaan pe growth hua hi nahin.
SK: No, that’s because, again internationally too, it is settling down because of the quality of 3D. Not everyone can do that. If Avatar had released today, the 3D percentage would jump.
PJ: In B and C towns, 3D is still there. It’s a charm. Even the quality is good and if the quality is good, people are going for 2D.
VK: There is an audience for 3D but unfortunately the format is not being made in India. But, yes, it depends on the quality.
SK: And make content-rich films. Make content which has to be viewed on the big screen.
VK: I think it is more about leadership in thought. So if Raju (Rajkumar Hirani) decides to make a 3D film, see what that does to cinemas embracing 3D.
PJ: Prices will rise. If it’s 3D, prices will increase. (Laughs)
AT: It starts from the top. So if you make a good film, the audience will pay to watch it. Just don’t make one film a year. Make 10 such films a year.
PJ: Anil, it’s not the distributor who wants it, even exhibitors increase their rates.
AT: Content should improve, quality of exhibition should improve. We have to set the ball rolling. If you have great content releasing every year, it will snowball.
PJ: He is right. In India, Avatar set the 3D ball rolling because it was something the audience had not seen before.
AT: So it’s based on the product. Every film can’t be like that.
NG: In today’s times, if an Indian film had to be enjoyed in 3D, it has to be Bahubali, the size of the film, the action, the war, the scale of the film… people are comparing it to swords and sandals. If Bahubali had been in 3D, the revenue would have been much, much better.
PJ: Yes, it has action and the scale.
NG: It’s the Indian answer to Avatar.
SK: Also, the problem with 3D is the quality of exhibition.
AT: Of course! Everything should improve.
NA: That’s what I am saying, improve your cinema.
PJ: The quality of cinemas is very good in metros and it declines in the small cities. When PK released, we went to cinemas in Muradabad… people were drinking and smoking inside the cinemas.
RA: It is also the profile of the audience that patronizes these cinemas – largely male and no family audience. So, obviously the toilets are not clean and women will not venture into cinemas like these. So occupancy will never grow for, say, a family film. For an action film or a big star cast film, men will go in large numbers.
AT: When Hum Aapke Hain Koun released, every cinema hall improved its quality and the movie ran for a year. Revenue came in whether you got two weeks or three weeks but because the film ran for so long, every cinema improved its quality.
SK: Anil, you’re talking about improvement of showcasing cinema. (Laughs)
AT: Get a product like this which will run for a year and revenues will be much more.
SK: Improve the toilets, structure, quality of cinema halls. Avatar brought 3D to India, so it’s the quality which we need to improve.
AT: Arrey, since that film ran for a year, exhibitors saw bigger revenues and were able to improve the quality of their cinemas and services. I am saying make a good film which will run for at least a few weeks and revenues will flow in. Understand that exhibitors need money. The number of films that work every year is very low.
SK: Collections will follow if cinema is good.
PJ: He is saying that to generate revenue, we need to make more films that work.
AT: Let me explain why I am saying that it starts from the top. Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a damn good film but it didn’t reach out everywhere. What is your ratio of multiplex to single-screen?
NA: Around 80:20, yaar.
AT: No, it is 85:15.
AT: For a successful film like Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Today, what is the single-screen contribution to this ratio?
PJ: Not more than that for even Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
AT: And that too if you get more films a year like Bahubali; if you get 10 films a year, things will automatically change.
NA: As a producer, I can’t limit myself to make 10 Bahubalis, na?
AT: What I am saying is if only we could get 10 films like that. Unfortunately, we only get three to four such films. That is not enough to survive.
RA: When you’re talking about single-screens, you may have noticed that ticket prices are high in the big cities, where there are multiplexes. There aren’t many single-screens in big cities and the number increases as you travel to Tier II and Tier III cities. Here, ticket prices are very low. That’s why their contribution is very low.