The reign of the top five seems to be coming to an end – collections grew by just 4% compounded in five years – as the Khans fade away.
If Bollywood’s box office collections hit a record high in 2019, it was because the contribution from films ranked between 6 and 25 – or those that are neither too large nor too small – increased 33%. That drove up collections for the top 25 films by 21%. Indeed, the reign of the top five seems to be coming to an end – collections grew by just 4% compounded in five years – as the Khans fade away. Films that starred the big-three – Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan – have a share of just 10% in the money made by the top-25 movies; earlier this used to be 30-35%, according to analysts at Kotak Institutional Equities.
Rajib Basu, partner, PwC, believes the gap between the top five and the next six-25 could narrow further, given the ‘star culture’ appears to be fading and many more well-directed films being made with relevant themes. “Stars may pull in the crowd for the first weekend but not for much longer,” Basu said, pointing out that an Andhadhun with its gripping story and tight narration was more likely to draw audiences.
Indeed, many more films are now able to gross and cross Rs 100 crore and Rs 200 crore; their numbers more than doubled to 17 last year from seven in 2017.The people responsible for the success of these films are some talented directors who have turned strong story lines into watchable content without blowing up billions. Add to it a new lot of actors who are able to turn in good performances though they’re not yet giving us that many blockbusters of Rs 250-300 crore.
As Ajay Gupta, partner at A.T. Kearney, said the success of mid-scale movies can be attributed to good content. According to him, the exposure to rich global content on the internet has bred a culture of consuming progressive and meaningful content. “Also, youngsters are a lot more open in their outlook,” Gupta said.
It helps that these films can all be seen, not too far away, at one’s friendly neighbourhood theatre. Also, as KIE points out, producers have been lining up releases on long weekends, gradually moving away from “quarterly seasonality” and that has helped pull in crowds.
“Footfalls will continue to increase,” said Dinkar Ayilavarapu, partner, Bain & Company, pointing out that spending on leisure as a percentage of incomes in India is less than 2%, compared with about 10% in the developed world. Rising disposable incomes, Ayilavarapu adds, are driving the movie business much as they would drive OTT, travel, and other leisure businesses.
If collections are growing fairly well, that’s also due to rising prices of tickets. Average ticket prices (ATP) at Inox rose to Rs 199 in the nine months to December 2019, from Rs 164 in FY15. At PVR, the ATP increased to Rs 204 in the nine months to December 2019, from Rs 178 in FY15. But the seating capacity is rising as is occupancy.
Jehil Thakkar, partner, Deloitte India, has no doubt that exhibitors are on a sound wicket. “They have priced tickets flexibly and that should pay off,” Thakkar predicts.
Given the rising popularity of Bollywood content, Girish Menon, partner at KPMG, forecasts that the film industry could grow at a healthy CAGR of 7.3% from FY19-24.