BOI: Let’s move on to other issues.
AT: There are more issues?
RA: Achha, that’s why he ended this topic… to move on to the other! (Laughs)
PJ: I think tax is one of the biggest issues, like in UP or in Bihar. Taxes are so high that cinemas cannot invest and get returns.
BOI: Going forward, do you think a film like Masaan, for instance, or Manjhi will be easier to distribute or is it still fickle?
NG: Honestly, nothing is easy and nothing is difficult. It’s all about marrying strategy with content and you hope you get it right. It takes as much effort to release a film in 3,000 screens as it does in 300 screens. That effort doesn’t change.
BOI: But what about scarcity of screens?
AT: I don’t think there is a scarcity of screens. It’s more in our minds.
NG: The real challenge is me getting my collections the next morning when I need to inform the trade guys. That is a bigger challenge. I would like exhibitors to move on and I would like to know how much money my film made the previous day, the opening weekend and the first week.
RA: Again, we are talking about infrastructure.
NG: It is not being implemented because certain cinemas have certain issues. Why? All these cinemas are listed on the stock exchange, still they don’t want to report their collections. They don’t want to use tools that are available to bring about transparency in numbers. They shy away from this. You have got an international company in India saying, we will help you get your information to you in time.
NG: Yes, why is it so difficult? I don’t need to know anybody else’s numbers if they don’t want to tell me. But can I know how many tickets I sold the previous night?
BOI: What do you think of the so-called fudging of numbers? Where does it come from, on whose orders?
NG: Some of it is due to insecurity among all the stakeholders. Let’s do some plain talking. Every actor wants his film to be big because their market value depends on it. Every producer wants his film to be big because there is another studio around the corner saying they make more money. Every studio, listed on the stock exchange or not, wants to make bigger headlines. So it comes from everywhere. All these insecurities come into play and the easiest thing to do is to put a number out there which says that we are the biggest. But when you look at your profit and loss, you know you are bleeding or you know just how successful you are. The day you can look yourself in the mirror and say, yes, this is the truth, and I can face it, this fudging of numbers will stop.
VK: We are the only industry that goes out and says, ‘We made `500 crore or we made `600 crore’. Show me any other industry which says they made `3,000 crore worth of sales.
RA: Who knows the actual gross. They have a formula that they use to convert it on their own before they announce their numbers. They don’t report revenue, they report gross.
NG: Yes, exactly.
NA: But they don’t really fudge. Everyone knows all the numbers. It is no secret, yaar. Everyone in the industry knows what’s what.
AT: (Laughs) Nandu, everybody knows but yet it is happening.
NA: Today, I would know the actual collections of Bahubali and you would know the numbers of Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
AT: Yet, everyone is doing it.
NA: Fudging is also dying out.
BOI: A last word from each of you?
SK: A lot of coordination is required, from filmmakers to distributor to exhibitors, and we need to work as an industry and not as separate verticals to improve infrastructure and the industry. There are so many issues which are affecting the industry.
PJ: I think the government should give more concessions to exhibitors so that more plexes will be built, especially in small towns. For instance, Dehradun was a `15-20 lakh centre seven to eight years ago. But after plexes came in, revenue has risen to more than `2 crore. Even a small town like Sangrur, which was a`1 lakh centre, is today at `50-60 lakh at the box office. So we need more concessions so that we can go to small towns. Right now, we release films in 150-200 cities while we have more than 400 towns, which have a population of 1 lakh. And 90 per cent of our revenue comes from the top 100-150 cities. So if we get better taxes and better cinema, the quality of cinema halls will improve. And, yes, also stable ticket prices.
RA: We should basically work on how we can improve infrastructure, which is how we can bring audiences to our cinemas, which will increase revenue. This would increase our base from 300 to 400 to 500. If we are really looking forward to being a `1,000 crore industry, we need to improve infrastructure in Tier II and Tier III sectors, through investments and by providing them some relief by working through the government. We really need to look into infrastructure. That will definitely help us.
NG: Things will only get better. So, yes, we are looking forward to more films, more money, and more box office success. And more
Box Office India issues!
VK: This was a very thought-provoking discussion. What is important is how you follow through and I think we raised several interesting issues here. Over a period of time, once people start talking about it, something can and will be done. I think it’s about collaboration between what we are facing out there, and
Box Office India is the voice because you will put it out there. It will definitely help all of us.
NG: Be the voice to our vote.