3 Idiots ends Bollywood dry run, brings year-end breather

Written by Priyanka Akhouri | Mumbai | Updated: Dec 30 2009, 04:02am hrs
With the success of 3 Idiots at the domestic box office, 2009 will not seem such a bad year after all for Bollywood. Thats despite some big flops like the Dharma Productions made and UTV-distributed Kurbaan.

Typically, any film that sees occupancies of below 70% is considered to have done badly and reports put the occupancy for Kurbaan around 40% on the first day. While audiences were given a fair bit of choice in terms of action, romance, drama and comedy, the year didnt really see a blockbuster of the order of Ghajini, though 3 Idiots could turn out to be one. The Aamir Khan starrer Ghajini, released in 2008, is understood to have grossed more than Rs 100 crore and has probably earned more than any other Hindi film. Among the bigger hits in 2009 were Kaminey and Love Aaj Kal, both of which are understood to have grossed just over Rs 50 crore.

Timmy Kandhari, leader media and entertainment, PricewaterhouseCoopers, believes that theatrical revenues for the industry in 2009 would end up somewhere close to the numbers seen last year or they could be slightly lower. There have been fewer hits this year and fewer good releases too. Also, the dispute between exhibitors and producers which lasted for over two months as also the IPL tournament, hurt domestic box office collections, he said. PwC had estimated box office collections for 2009 around Rs 7,881 crore, compared with Rs 8,020 crore reported in 2008. As a result, the Hindi film industry may not grow this year and total revenues are likely to be just over Rs 10,000 crore as compared to Rs 10, 990 last year.

Much like in 2008, this year also saw distributors acquiring films at prices, which they realised later were way too high. According to film industry sources, Studio 18 is believed to have picked up Luck for around Rs 35 crore but ended up making much less than that. UTV Motion Pictures is understood to have acquired non-exclusive television rights for Wake Up Sid and Kurbaan at a cost of Rs 90 crore. However, how much it earned is not too clear with industry sources saying the amount fell far short of expectations.

According to an estimate, a clutch of 19 big-budget films fetched box office collections of Rs 510 crore for houses that either made or distributed them.

However, the amount that these five companies are understood to have paid for these films was about Rs 537 crore.

Distributors also earned less from broadcasters, which were going through a rough patch.

The average cost of acquisition of a Hindi film in 2009 dropped by between 30% and 60% as compared to previous years. According to PWCs Kandhari, Since broadcasters could not afford to pay very high prices, the average acquisition cost has come down to Rs 4-5 crore this year as compared to Rs 12-20 crore in the last two years. Besides, broadcasters also opted for non-exclusive rights and non-movie content, where no one broadcaster will have exclusive rights.

It is believed that the satellite rights for around 50 films were sold to over half a dozen broadcasters for a combined value of around Rs 200 crore for a period of five years around 30 % lower than a comparative figure for 2008.