Key members of the film industry talk about the issues that need to be addressed for Indian movies to join the Rs 1,000 crore club.
Of the 150 crore population of India,movies should reach out to at least 30 crore people. But currently,our reach is limited to 4.5 crore. If we figure out how to cover this gap,it will be a game changer for the industry. With this argument,filmmaker Karan Johar opened the panel discussion at FICCI Frames 2013 on the possibility of a 1,000 crore blockbuster.
Johar,also the co-chairperson of FICCI Frames Media & Entertainment Committee and the moderator for the session,which took place on day two of the recent conclave,had some of the key decision makers from the Hindi film industry as panelists. Siddharth Roy Kapur (MD Studios at Disney UTV),Vijay Singh (CEO,Fox Star Studios),Vikram Malhotra (CEO,Viacom 18 Motion Pictures) and Ajay Bijli (MD,PVR) were joined by Greg Foster,Chairman and President,IMAX Entertainment.
The year 2012 saw the 100 crore club finding acceptance when films such as Agneepath,Ek Tha Tiger,Rowdy Rathore and Dabangg 2 hit the magical number at the box office. However,the panelists believed that the figure is only the tip of the iceberg. There are several issues hindering the possibility of a 1,000 crore blockbuster. One of the key issues is exhibition, said Bijli,whose PVR is a leader in film exhibition. The country has an appetite for films,but the total number of screens is limited to 13,000,mostly spread across 75 cities and towns,leaving out close to 300 key markets in small towns. When you compare this to the 39,000 screens in the US,it lends perspective to what we lack in terms of infrastructure, added Bijli. This,in turn,he said,is linked to issues such as real estate prices and development issues.
The real market,therefore,said Bijli,is in small towns,where films are the main source of entertainment. To reduce the cost of development and contain the ticket pricing,his company has introduced the concept of PVR Talkies smaller theatres with average ticket price at Rs 50 in places such as Latur and Panipat.
Kapur added that along with addressing the problems with exhibition,there is also the need to review policies. He pointed out that the south has a cap on both ticket pricing of Hindi films and the number of screens they can show at. Then we have a high entertainment tax to pay, he added.
However,Singh felt that the one key aspect of the film business the movie itself was being overlooked. It is the development of content,he said,that needs to be addressed. Ang Lee took four years to develop Life of Pi and Steven Spielberg would not have made Lincoln without Daniel Day-Lewis. These filmmakers take their time to develop their films and makers back them throughout. In contrast,Indian filmmakers want to make a movie every four months and we,as studios,hardly support them for more than a year, he pointed out. Malhotra added that without taking measures to address content development issues,Bollywood would not be able to produce films that will bring 30 crore people to the theatres even if there were enough screens. The films need to have a pan-Indian appeal and we need more films such as 3 Idiots in a year to achieve that Rs 1,000 crore blockbuster, he said.
Kapur added that another way of achieving the tough target would be to dub the Indian content in regional languages in order to make it more accessible to diasporas. But Foster believes that Indian films suffer from several cultural quandaries,including the average length of a movie. They are close to three hours in length,which eats into several shows a day. And then there is the issue of piracy, he added.
Johar believes that other mediums,such as DVD and television releases soon after the theatrical release,also affect the market. Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! came at a time when families had stopped going to the theatres and everyone watched movies on VCR tapes,which would release alongside the film. But Rajshri Productions took measures to ensure that no VCR tape official or pirated hit the market for five weeks after the release. This brought families out in hordes and back into the theatres, he added.