Hit or flop, Bollywood films making moolah ...
By Priyanka Khanna, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, (IANS) Nearly a decade after the Hindi movie world was accorded industry status, the world's most prolific Mumbai studio-based film trade is finally beginning to reap dividends.
The much-delayed industry status that was announced in the central budget of 1998-99 is now showing actual signs of benefiting all in the movie business with nearly all films, hit or flop, raking in big bucks.
If today Yash Raj Films (YRF), the most-successful film production house in India, can afford to be unperturbed by a Hindi-speaking state's complete ban on release of its big-budget film "Fanaa", it is because they know they have already made enough money.
The film's producer Aditya Chopra and YRF's head-honcho Yash Chopra can demand a hike in their share of profits from multiplex distributors and exhibitors cause they no longer have sleepless nights before film releases.
They can even be justified in demanding money from music channels for broadcasting music of "Fanaa", even though they run the risk of a complete blackout.
A bold and aggressive YRF is not alone. Bollywood, the Mumbai studio-based industry that churns out more films annually than anywhere else, is honeymooning with India Inc.
Statistical projections by consultancy firm KPMG says the entertainment industry is growing at 18 percent per annum and is set to touch Rs.588 billion in revenues by 2010, and the film industry alone is expected to cross Rs.140 billion by then.
Be it the Rs.330 million-production "Mangal Pandey - The Rising", an irrefutable box-office dud, or a recent flop like "36 China Town", all made money. So much so that box-office collections have ceased to be a parameter of classifying films as hits or flops.
Earlier, less than 30 percent occupancy was the criteria for declaring a film a flop, but today it calls for celebration.
"Everybody is making money, even the distributors who used to cry horse when films flopped at the box-office. Showing the film to less people at Rs.120 is more profitable than screening it full house for Rs.20," says producer Vashu Bhagnani.
Till recently, distributors and exhibitors were the only ones lamenting the box-office's financial crisis but not any more. Distributors are now a happy lot as they get minimum guarantees from producers and commissions from film publicity.
Distributors no longer need to pay rental to the theatre owner irrespective of the movie's fate because now revenue is shared between the owners and distributors.
With traditional moviemaking economics undergoing a sea change due to mushrooming of satellite channels and 'new media' and emergence of overseas markets, theatrical revenues account for a very minuscule portion of the booty.
According to a report over the next five years, 50 percent of film revenues will come from the 'new media' that includes Internet, Direct to Home (DTH), mobile phones, radio and other pay-per-view interfaces.
Bollywood is the main source of entertainment content for the mobile operators who cater to a whooping 50 million. Wallpapers, ring tones, screensavers and games on mobile phones are reaching out to this section for publicity and revenue.
While producers are assured up-front payments by selling rights of the film before film's release (sometimes even before it is conceived), banks, initial public offers (IPOs) and corporate tie-ups are making it easy for them generate the money they need in the first place.
According to a Yes Bank report, over 38 percent Hindi films in 2004 were financed through non-traditional sources (debt, IPO, private and individual equity, companies, TV broadcasters) compared to only 10 percent two years before that. As much as Rs.2.56 billion was disbursed through these sources to the film industry in that year.
Many have taken the IPO route. Pritish Nandy Communications Ltd. has reportedly raised Rs.380 million from its IPO of which Rs.230 million was used to finance films. The company is now raising $12 million through convertible debenture, and the cash will be used to de-risk its movie-making portfolio.
Increasingly, moviemaking in Bollywood is becoming not only loss-proof but also risk-proof.
With the Hindi film industry flush with funds, the moviegoers should be the ones who benefit the most. That, however, is not the case. Moviemakers are too busy in packaging good film proposals that they are still not paying much attention to content.
Even the script of "Fanaa" that released Friday is not worth half the hype generated around it. The Kunal Kohli, who earned rave reviews for his directorial debut "Hum Tum", film is propped solely by stellar work of actor Aamir Khan and Kajol.
Clearly, there are more funds than good films in the market. Here is hoping at least some of the fortunes that have descended on Hindi filmdom translate into great movies.
A sure sign that Bollywood has emerged not only as money-spinners for entertainment industry but also a sector to reckon with for rest of India is the recent impact it has been having on the equity markets.
Reportedly, stock market share prices have been following Bollywood box-office flops. A report in a business daily states the share price of UTV Software Communications, which produced the year's first blockbuster hit "Rang De Basanti", has gone up 5.49 percent to Rs.189.25 since the day of the movie's release.
On the other hand, the share price of Mukta Arts is down by as much as 15.39 percent to Rs.43.15. The company released box-office duds "Shaadi Se Pehle" on April 7 and "36 China Town" on May 5.
It states that out of the 92 movies - including those made in Bollywood and Hindi dubs of foreign, regional and crossover films - produced in the first four months of this year, there were just two winners: "Rang De Basanti" and "Maalamaal Weekly".
This could be a more convincing reason for Bollywood dream merchants to make better films.