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Screen Short

Occasionally, on this page, we crunch some numbers to examine where the Indian film industry stands vis-à-vis the major film markets globally on various parameters.

In one such recent study, (Chinese Checkers, issue dated November 19, 2016), we had compared the Indian and Chinese box-office data and observed that despite both countries having a similarly sized population, our Eastern neighbor outperforms us by a multiple of a whopping 10 or more on almost every count – the size of the annual domestic box office, as well as the collections clocked by the highest-grossing domestic and imported films.

As we had mentioned in that note, the substantial Chinese lead can partially be attributed to the high degree of protection enjoyed by the local film industry there, with the authoritarian state restricting the number of foreign films that can be exhibited in China, and even that on unfavorable commercial terms and subject to stringent censorship.

However, another important factor that causes India to lag behind China is the vastly different levels of exhibition infrastructure available in both countries.  This week, we are exploring India’s place on the global exhibition map in further detail.

While the ‘multiplexisation’ of Indian exhibition in the last couple of decades has undoubtedly seen a significant change in the national screen count, is it adequate for a country of our size? To answer that question, we have compiled a list of some of the major film centres around the world and mapped the number of screens in these countries with their respective populations. Take a look at the table below which is arranged in descending order of screen density: 

Screen Density In A Cross-Section Of International Film Markets


Country Number of Screens Population* People Per Screen Global Rank –


Global Rank –

Film Market Size

USA 40,475 322 million 7,950 3 1
New Zealand 420 4.53 million 10,783 127  
France 5,700 64.4 million 11,297 22 7
Australia 2,080 24 million 11,524 53 9
Spain 4,000 46.12 million 11,531 28 14
Canada 3,000 35.94 million 11,980 38  
UK 4,115 64.72 million 15,727 21 3
Germany 4,692 80.69 million 17,197 16 8
Italy 3,400 59.8 million 17,588 23 12
South Korea 2,492 50.29 million 20,182 27 6
Mexico 5,977 127.02 million 21,251 10 10
Singapore 223 5.60 million 25,130 113  
China 39,194 1.38 billion 35,109 1 2
Russian Federation 4,020 143.46 million 35,686 9 11
Japan 3,437 126.57 million 36,827 11 4
Argentina 900 43.42 million 48,241 32 15
Brazil 3,098 207.85 million 67,091 5 13
India 8,500 1.31 billion 154,241 2 5

*Source: United Nations Population Division, rounded-off

It’s a simple table to read: with 40,475 screens serving a population of around 32 crore, less than 8,000 people are served by each screen in the United States – the third most populous nation on earth, and the world’s largest film market.

Unflatteringly, despite being the world’s most prolific film producer, the second most populated and the fifth largest film market by revenue, you have to scroll to the bottom of the list to find India. Further, it’s not just that India ranks lowest amongst its peers in terms of screen availability per person, the quantum of the gap it has to bridge to be comparable with the other markets is formidable too. Leave aside the nations at the top of the table, like the US or New Zealand that have 15 to 20 times our screen density; even the second lowest ranked market in this table, Brazil, serves much less than half the people each screen in India caters to.

What is also important to note is that the 1.54 lakh people per screen figure for India is an average, and therefore most likely disguises even greater screen scarcity for large swathes of the country at the ground level. Case in point: as many as 17 screens at 4 multiplex properties are accessible in less than a five minute drive from our office in Andheri (West), Mumbai. That is more than the number of screens serving entire cities – state capitals, at that – like Bhopal, Patna, Bhubaneswar and Ranchi. It would be interesting and informative to explore the inter-city screen density in India in further detail and we shall do so soon in a forthcoming issue.

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