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Weak start for Bollywood in 2015

Surajeet Das Gupta & Urvi Malvania  |  New Delhi/Mumbai 

It's been a worrying beginning to a new year in Bollywood with producers of 11 movies released in the past one-and-a-half months bombing in the box office. After a two-year dream run, producers are now running for cover with losses estimated to be in the range of Rs 130 crore in less than two months, trade analysts say.

According to independent analyst Suneil Wadhwa, producers put in Rs 374 crore in these 11 movies, but where able to make only Rs 236 crore from their share of worldwide box office collections, music and satellite rights. The problem has been accentuated because TV broadcasters are no longer ready to pay big bucks for Bollywood movies anymore.

"This was among the lowest-grossing month at the box office. The abnormally low total can be chalked up to a dearth of content in 2015. So the record haul of 2013 or 2014 seems very unlikely this year. This weakening trend will continue due to the ongoing cricket World Cup and the upcoming Indian Premier League matches," says Wadhwa.

It is clear that domestic movie-goers rejected the content of the movies on offer, which is reflected in the fact that producers were able to recover only half the film costs from domestic box office. For instance, Tevar starring Arjun Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha - which came with a lot of promise and on which producers spend Rs 62 crore, was able to recover only a little more than half of what was spent in the domestic box office (half of this goes to the producer the rest to exhibition companies). While the much-hyped Dolly Ki Doli produced by Salman Khan's brother Arbaaz Khan did not make a stir, even Amitabh Bachchan could not draw the crowds with his movie Shamitabh recovering only a third of its cost from domestic box office collections.

What is also worrisome is that without any of the Khans in the picture, international audiences also gave a lukewarm response to these movies with all of them making only around Rs 40 crore. Exhibition are also worried. Devang Sampat, business head (strategy) at Cinepolis India, says: "At Cinepolis, we have seen that the footfalls at our like-to-like properties are comparable from 2014 to 2015, for the first six weeks or so. The major let-down this year has been the fact that movies have not been able to convert the opening into a steady occupancy. This has hurt the business."

He explains that last year, for example, there was Yaariyan, which was a small-budget movie that collected good revenues. There was Jai Ho, too. This year, Tevar was expected to do well. But it disappointed. Similarly, Roy did not have the response at multiplexes as trade (pundits) would have expected.

Independent analyst Komal Nahta says the bad run in the first one-and-a-half months is a function of content not clicking and pricing going wrong. He says Baby, for instance, has done good business. But its cost is too high. So here is a movie that has a niche appeal, but priced as a movie with universal appeal. So, the numbers do not add up and despite doing Rs 90 crore, the movie is not commercially successful.

The other key problem is the rationalisation in satellite rights. "Last year, Akshay Kumar's Entertainment did not do wonders at the box office as such. However, its satellite rights revenue was around Rs 35 crore. Today, Shaukeens, Baby and another Akshay movie together will be sold at this price. The prices are almost a third of what they used to be. It is bound to impact business," says Nahta.

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First Published: Mon, February 23 2015. 00:30 IST
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