Utpal Acharya, head of distribution at Reliance BIG Pictures, who has been in the industry for over a decade. As a result, independent producers, such as Vashu Bhagnani and Dharma Productions, started to tie up with corporates who could back films.
With an easier flow of money, the quality of film-making and the scale of storytelling went up as did the number of noticeable films being released in a year. “Earlier, there were no more than 35 such films in a year. It is almost triple that number as it stands today,” points out Acharya. This was compounded by the fact that the industry had very little bankable talent, each commanding a high fee. “As the budgets went up, films became too costly and thus unviable for distributors, even for top names, such as Sringar and Raksha Films that operate in Bombay territory, to purchase every lucrative project that came into the market, making it imperative for producers to also start looking at distribution.
Privatisation, however, also simultaneously changed the exhibition business. Kamal Gianchandani, president, PVR Pictures, points out that the country today has over 500 multiplexes with close to 20 new properties being added every year. However, the country’s first multiplex, PVR Saket in Delhi, opened as recently as 1997. The industry credits family entertainers of quality production by makers like Yash Raj Films and Rajshri Productions for bringing the audience back to theatres.
“Multiplexes added to this experience by providing a comfortable environment with good sound and picture quality and amenities like hygiene and quality food stalls. There are close to 2,000 single screens and 500 multiplexes today in the country. The latter is only 25% of the single-screen number but contributes up to 75% of a film’s revenue. This has also played a huge role in the rise of what the industry is now calling the R100-crore club,” Gianchandani adds.
The multiplex culture also gave rise to what are often referred to as “multiplex films”. With scripts and storylines that look beyond the formulaic big-budget entertainers, this new genre proved that there is a discerning audience for films that is high on content but may lack star power. It is, in fact, this genre that made producers realise the need to take up distribution. Although for good cinema, distributors would show reluctance to buy these films since there was no star factor. But good response in the