While movies such as Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo, Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani did well, many failed to hit the mark. According to experts, audience has become more quality-conscious than before.
“In 2015, content won hands down. More importantly, movies that were packaged well and projected as a ‘must-watch’, but failed to deliver the content to match this proposition, were rejected by the audiences. With content discovery and user reviews easily available on social media, content producers have learnt, perhaps the hard way, that good content will be rewarded, while not-so-good content will not be accepted, whatever the packaging,” says Ajit Andhare, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Motion Pictures.
Suniel Wadhwa, an independent distributor and a box office analyst, adds, “Revenue at domestic box office in 2015 dented for the first time in the past five years by six per cent, compared to 2014. The first half of 2015 contributed 41 per cent to the overall box office, while it added 59 per cent in the second half, with help of blockbusters and festive season.”
However, while the small- to medium-budget movies have made profits, they have not added to the overall box office kitty. The collection from the top 10 grossers from 2015 has seen a 10 per cent dip over those from 2014, which is where the major deficit has come from. In 2015, six of the top 10 grossers crossed the Rs 100-crore mark and two crossed the Rs 200-crore mark. In case of 2014, nine of the 10 top earners had collections above Rs 100 crore.
Wadhwa observes, “Domestic box office proves that this year, big-budget tentpole movies have not lived up to the expectations of moviegoers, but content-driven films were highly appreciated and enjoyed long box office window as moviegoers from a wide array of backgrounds came together for the shared in-theatre experience. This provided collective push at box office for the second half of the year in spite of average ticket price going up from Rs 133 in 2014 to Rs 188 in 2015.”
In terms of content, there was one trend that emerged distinctly — the success of sequels. From small- and medium-budget films such as Pyar Ka Punchanama 2 (Rs 22 crore) and Tanu Weds Manu Returns (Rs 35 crore) to films such as Welcome Back (Rs 50 crore) and ABCD 2 (Rs 50 crore), sequels ruled the roost.
“The trend of sequels doing well is encouraging. Almost all the films released as sequels have done well and this will help build franchises in Bollywood. Keeping in mind how conscious the audience has become about the content they pay for, it is a heartening development. The success of sequels and Hollywood films are the highlights of the year,” says Amrita Pandey, vice-president and head of marketing and distribution (studios) at Disney India.
While Bollywood saw an up and down journey through the year, Hollywood recorded one of its most successful runs in India. For the first time ever, a Hollywood film breached the Rs 100-crore mark in India in the form of Fast and Furious 7. Jurassic Park came close to hitting the same number at Rs 96 crore, while films such as Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation, Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens all clocked healthy collections.
“Year 2015 was stellar for Hollywood in India. Content was appreciated not only by the critics, but the films reached new highs. On an average, Hollywood films account for 6-7 per cent of the total collections at the Indian box office (including Hindi, regional and foreign language films). This year, we see the contribution has gone up to around 15 per cent,” says Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive, PVR.
Studios, distributors and exhibitors agree that 2015 has been a year of learnings, the effect of which will be seen in the years to come. While awareness about the need to budget films rationally came in over the last year, the results will be seen in 2016 onwards, because projects have an 18-month pre-production window. In other words, the green lighting and costing of a film usually happens 18 months before the film is actually released.
“Content and costing aside, the industry needs to come together and tackle more long-standing issues like the infrastructure in the exhibition space, taxation and how to get more people (footfalls) to the theatres. For stability and growth in the film industry, these issues need to be addressed,” says Andhare of Viacom18 Motion Pictures.