There was a time during the pandemic when cinemas were totally shut, and audiences hooked to OTTs seemed to be a way of life that would prevail.
However, as theatres reopened and larger-than-life releases took over the big screens, the faith of cinema owners was reinstated. This year’s biggest releases K.G.F: Chapter 2, RRR, The Kashmir Files, Gangubai Kathiawadi and Bhool Bhulaiyya 2 not only brought the money back into the business, but proved to be golden openers for theatres after the pandemic.
Recovery, which began in March, as the pandemic waned, has continued in the first quarter. Besides more occupancy, average ticket prices and spends on F&B are higher than pre-pandemic levels. Revenues of PVR Pictures and INOX Leisure, which have the biggest market share in terms of overall multiplex screens in India at 26.6% and 21%, respectively, grew from Rs 12,356 million in FY 22 to Rs 39,559 in FY 23 (estimated) and from Rs 6,863 in FY 22 to Rs 23,392 in FY 23 (estimated), respectively, as per data shared by an Anand Rathi report on Multiplexes: The Best is Yet to Come. PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2022-2026 further predicts a CAGR of 38.3% for cinemas, the highest growth rate amongst all segments.
As Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, told FE, “RRR and KGF have had unprecedented success at the theatrical box office. Both films have contributed immensely towards the V-shape recovery we are witnessing in theatrical and film business.”
The success of regional films also signals a trend of breaking of language barriers. Some of it has to do with the fact that dubbed regional films were popular on OTTs, which translated into success of regional films at the box office too.
Success of Hollywood films like Top Gun-2 also indicates that Bollywood is no longer the mainstay at the box office. “Non-Hindi Indian movies and Hollywood movies have broken the thresholds of geographical and language barriers, being dubbed in multiple languages aided by their larger-than-life appeal and formats such as IMAX and 3D, which have helped in expanding the movie viewing market. This is a massive positive for theatrical business, and will help boost the theatrical box office collections in a material way. I think FY 2022-23 could easily become the best year in the history of film business, thanks to this growing trend,” adds Gianchandani.
Rajendra Singh Jyala, chief programming officer, INOX Leisure, says he is confident that theatres have a bright future ahead and that both OTTs and theatres will co-exist and complement each other.
“Bhool Bhulaiyya 2 was a medium budget film but did a business of more than `180 crore, Jugjugg Jeeyo did decent business. So sooner or later, things will pick up. The upcoming lineup of films like Laal Singh Chaddha, Shamshera and Raksha Bandhan are promising and might impact the numbers positively,” he says.
Theatres also focusing on improving the experience of cinema with better food and beverage options and movie formats like IMAX and 4D will be an added plus to attract viewers.
PVR recently announced an exclusive tie-up with Oma Cinemas, the premium auditorium concept by French architect Pierre Chican, to roll out opera houses-inspired cinemas in India.
As Jyala of INOX points out, in the pre-pandemic days, over 300 films released every year but the success ratio was never more than 18-20%, with only about 40-50 hit films and only about 10 films entering the Rs 100 crore-club. He adds, “Post-pandemic, the ratio has not changed, but the success of films from the south — KGF and RRR — contributed to the popularity of regional films, and also opened the tier-II AND III markets more.”