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Understanding box office numbers: A successful marketing tool in the age of social media

As discussion about box office numbers has picked momentum after the success of Brahmastra, here's what you can expect from trade and understand why producers choose to share details on how much a a film is earning, and how it impacts the movie going audience.

Hrithik Roshan, Dharma Productions, Dulquer Salmaan/ InstagramAfter a slow start Bollywood films have picked up at the box office in 2022. (Photos: Hrithik Roshan, Dharma Productions, Dulquer Salmaan/ Instagram)

With every passing movie, box office numbers have started becoming more and more important, more so after the performance of Brahmastra in theatres. Box office numbers help the film to continue the buzz after it is released in theatres. More than ever before people outside the circle of trade and filmmaking are taking keen interest in how much money a film is making on its release and consecutive days. From The Kashmir Files to Brahmastra, from Vikram Vedha to Ponniyin Selvan, films’ performance at the ticket counters are as much in the news as their creative value.

In order to understand the language of trade, we spoke to trade analysts, film producers, distributors, cinema owners and chalk out how to read and assimilate all the trade information that is being bombarded at us every single day, about every single film on social media, which in turn influences the viewers decision to either go and watch the film or not.

If you talk about Brahmastra, the makers last shared its box office collection on September 19 and said the film’s worldwide gross collection is Rs 360 crore. The numbers suggest the film has been a spectacle and a smashing hit with the audiences. However, there has been a debate on whether or not the producers shared inflated numbers to make the film’s earnings look bigger than they actually are.

On this, film producer and film business expert Girish Johar says that box office numbers are a good marketing tool to ensure that the film continues to be talked about. However, he feels they don’t actually add to the footfall. Before we discuss how box office numbers impact the audience and the business of films, it is important to see how box office numbers are calculated.

There is a major difference between net and gross box office collection. While the gross box office collection includes the money received from the total sale of film tickets, net is gross minus deductions made by the government like entertainment tax, service tax, etc. Another thing to consider is that these taxes differ from state to state, hence, the net collection of a film can differ from one state to another for the same film with the same gross amount. While net film collections are generally revealed for Hindi films, numbers shared for south India are mostly gross amount.

Johar says that given the numbers being discussed for films are fairly big, there is a lot of interest among people regarding box office. “Everyone is keenly excited when big numbers, big money are talked about and we all know India is crazy about cricket and movies. So anytime big numbers are associated with films, be it high box office numbers or big budgets or even star fees, it gets a lot of traction and the general public does get attracted,” the trade expert opines.

However, Johar also suggests that while there is a lot of conversation around box office numbers, it is only a marketing tool and doesn’t always impact a moviegoer’s decision to either watch or not watch a film. “Producers and the film’s marketing teams want to ensure that there is a huge number of audiences thronging the cinemas to watch their films, so they use box office numbers as a marketing tool. And now the audiences have realised that it is just used as a marketing tool to engage and get traction,” Johar adds.

Kangana Ranaut continuously claimed that producers Karan Johar has been sharing inflated box office numbers for Brahmastra. Is there a way to authenticate these number though? Johar says, “unfortunately there isn’t!” While internationally organisations like Rentrak provide some transparency, very few organisations in India are doing similar work, like Ormax. Johar explains, “At the end of the day, if you see from a commercial perspective then the film is the producer’s investment, so it is completely their call whether to share numbers or not.”

That’s the trade side of the story, but why do producers choose to share how much their film is earning? Producer Sunny Khanna who has backed films like Bheja Fry 2, Mulk and Traffic Signal is of the opinion that sharing box office number is becoming very important today because of the negativity that surrounds films, and that is one way to stop people with agenda from sabotaging a film.


He says, “It is not required, but films are being targeted by those with an agenda. They try to sabotage the film by sharing wrong box office numbers, then the producer has no option then to start sharing how much their film has earned and this happens a lot. Recent example is Brahmastra. Everyone was putting the film down by saying that the content is not good or the film is not earning as much as it should have (compared to the budget), but today the box office numbers has proven the film’s mettle. Then the other possibility is that a smaller film, which starts with smaller earnings but shows growth over Saturday and Sunday, then the audience feels that the movie is has picked up so maybe it is worth a watch. For example when Chup released people didn’t expect it to do the numbers but it went on becoming stronger with every passing day.”

Box office numbers is a huge discussion on social media and publications too report it diligently, but does that really pull audiences to theatres to watch a film? Manoj Desai, distributor and owner of Mumbai’s Gaiety Galaxy and the iconic Maratha Mandir tells us that sharing box office numbers with public has really helped Bollywood, especially in these times.

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He says, “It has worked for Bollywood after it faced a few bad months. It also shows that people are excited to watch the film because there is a good advance booking. Box office numbers are the new indicators of how a film is and how it is fairing, it is like how people used to read reviews before watching films, now some of them check box office numbers to understand if it is doing good business and if it makes sense for them to invest in it by going to watch it.”

First published on: 04-10-2022 at 08:31 IST
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