Bollywood paces up!

By Hindustan Times

India’s back-with-a-bang mass film idol, Salman Khan, delivered 2011’s biggest box office hit in Hindi cinema, with Bodyguard crossing Rs 140 crore in box office collections.

In 2011, three Hindi films crossed the Rs 100 crore mark. Where mass entertainers like Bodyguard, Ready and
Ra.One worked big time at the box office, the more regionally-slanted Singham, the thoroughly urban Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Delhi Belly, the unusual and bold The Dirty Picture and the musically-themed Rockstar were also hits.

“Success of a film is measured by its earnings-to-cost comparison,” said Priti Shahani, chief strategy officer, Reliance Entertainment, which released Singham and co-produced Bodyguard. By that definition, 2011 was indeed a bonanza year for hits, including Tanu Weds Manu, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Yamla Pagla Deewana, Double Dhamaal, Shaitan, Haunted and Pyaar Ka Punchnaama. The December-released Don 2 is still new.

Are more consumers watching more Hindi films at theatres, or is Bollywood delivering genuinely good films? After a dismal 2009 and a marginally better 2010 when some big budget films failed to attract significant box office (BO) audiences, 2011 seemed to have a sustained run of successes.

“Indian film consumers want to be entertained,” said Shahani. But that’s what the film industry was stating even two years ago.

Vikram Malhotra, COO, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, asserted: “More people are watching more movies at theatres — the single biggest development for the industry. In 2011, 340 crore tickets were sold – a 12% jump over 2010, which was up by around 15% over 2009 ticket sales. The growth of multiplexes is definitely driving back consumers to theatres. It combines eating out and window shopping for the family. Plus, the middle class has taken to multiplexes significantly.”

However, if 2010 saw a 15% jump over 2009 in ticket sales, it should have reflected in more hits than Bollywood saw in that year. The canvas of the 2011 hit parade, therefore, must surely include more than just one or two factors.

A number of things that have already been at different stages of development for the film industry fell more neatly into place in 2011. The industry seems to have understood the Indian consumers’ diverse tastes in film viewing. Therefore, for every Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara that drew the audiences to multiplexes, a Singham did very well at single screen theatres in small-town India. Ra.One, a slick sci-fi entertainer, was also released in Tamil and Telugu. Earlier, Tamil Rajnikanth-starrer and superhit Endhiran had done huge business in its Hindi Robot avatar as well.

Southern siren Silk Smitha’s life story, depicted boldly yet sensitively in The Dirty Picture saw quality content winning. And yet, some 2011 hits did not necessarily have strong content but worked on star-power.

The hits also happened because budgets have become realistic, with the audience the genre can deliver being better understood by filmmakers, who are assigning budgets accordingly.

Though 2011 delivered a variety of hits, some films such as Yeh Saali Zindagi and Saat Khoon Maaf did not work. “Saat Khoon Maaf, I believe, was not promoted well,” said Pritie Jadhav, COO, P9 Integrated (Percept). “With so many films chasing audiences today, it is imperative to get the pre-release marketing and promotions right. The first three days will decide how a film will perform at the box office.” Any film that did well in 2011 almost definitely had strong marketing backing it. The consumption of film trailers on YouTube in 2011 indicates that consumer connects happened.

Even Hollywood film Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, benefited from the pre-release visit by Tom Cruise and the hype that India distribution and promotion partner Viacom 18 Motion Pictures built up, said Malhotra. “Ghost Protocol grossed Rs 26 crore in its opening weekend at the BO and to date, has grossed Rs 50 crore in India alone. Avatar had grossed Rs 22 crore in its opening weekend in India.” He added: “With more film studios seeking Rs 100 crore film hits every second month, marketing and promotions are seeing higher spending with much more confidence,” Malhotra said.

The good news is that more films are drawing theatre audiences over more weeks than earlier. Tanu Weds Manu drew good audiences over nine weeks. Shaitan drew them over eight weeks.

Even as non-BO viewing and monetising avenues are opening up for films, BO revenues dominate at a 70-75% share of total earnings in India. The BO will thus continue to get the lion’s share of attention from the industry and consumers. The positive momentum of 2011 has set the pace for 2012, which promises to be action packed.

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