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April 18, 2008. M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. Speedster Zaheer Khan, representing the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s team is to deliver the first ever ball of the Indian Premier League to Sourav Ganguly, who is taking first strike for the Kolkata Knight Riders… And cricket, as we knew it, would never be the same again.

In a total reversal of the Murphy’s Law, the IPL had everything going right for it. India had won the inaugural T20 World Cup just months earlier and the country had welcomed the 20-overs per innings format with open arms. And a nation obsessed with homegrown cricketing superstars could now look forward to following their icons – not to mention, the best of international talent – in every match and not just when their home team played.

More than just cricket stadia, what IPL also totally took over was the airwaves. This, after all, was a made-for-television property with broadcast rights being the dominant revenue stream. As if the on-ground action from the crème de la crème of world cricket wasn’t entertainment enough, there was plenty of off-field action for the cameras to pick up too – from the star power and glamour of films stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty who owned teams and frequently attended matches, to the gyrations of the economically dressed cheerleaders who enthusiastically celebrated each boundary and wicket.

While the IPL may have ushered in an entertainment bonanza for cricket enthusiasts as well as casual television viewers and massively boosted the bank balances of players, one community that wasn’t too thrilled with this new-kid-in-town was the film industry.  

With 4 to 8 hours of free and compelling entertainment playing out daily in drawing rooms across India, and that too over an extended period of almost two months, a substantial chunk of the annual calendar became a virtual no-fly zone for the film industry.

But… there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And when headlines of cricketing feats began to get outnumbered by those of controversies and improprieties off-field, credibility and viewer interest started taking a dip.

Much like a good opening batsman who quietly weathers the fiery pace attack at the start of his innings and then starts to score more freely once he gets a grip on the ground conditions and the opposition, the film trade too has learned to cope with the IPL.

At first, the only films that dared to hit the screens during this period were those that, quite frankly, couldn’t otherwise get a release. But, with the passage of time, many more and much bigger films have started to bell the IPL cat.

This week, with the landmark 10th edition of the IPL about to kick off in a few days, let us take a look at how the box office has fared against this mighty adversary over the years. Please note that since the first two seasons of the IPL precede the launch of this publication, we are only considering verifiable data i.e. from IPL 2010 onwards.

The way to read this table is: the IPL season of 2011 coincided with the release of 20 Hindi films. Collectively, these films netted around Rs.157 crore at the domestic box office. That’s an average Rs.7.87 crore per film, which is 57 per cent of what a Hindi film earned on average in that calendar year. 

For the purpose of this week’s study, the most relevant column is the last one that compares average collections during each IPL edition with those of that particular year’s annual averages. And the trend that emerges from that column is a very discernible and encouraging one.

Releases during IPL 2010 earned just around one-third of what a film earned on average that year, and conceivably, that figure was even lower during the first two editions of the tournament that are not featured in the table. However, the years thereafter – except for a dip in 2013 – have seen Hindi films steadily clawing their way to virtual parity.

In fact, one might even say that by achieving 90 per cent and more of the annual averages during the last three editions of the IPL, Hindi films have perhaps performed better than they usually do during the traditionally dull first half of the year. The Indian release calendar, after all, is bottom-heavy, with most of the marquee dates – the Eid, Diwali and Christmas weekends in particular – featuring in the second half of the year and, typically, it is the big numbers achieved during these periods that bolster the annual average.

One could conclude, therefore, that the film industry has weathered the bouncers hurled by the IPL in its opening spell. However, we should by no means let that lull us into a sense of complacency. After all, it is when the pace is off that tricky googlies come into play!

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