The Indian box office seems to have shaken off the demons of the pandemic with a strong start to CY2022. Box office collections touched Rs 4,002 crore for the period January-April 2022, according to a report by GroupM iTV and Ormax Media. It is also the first time that the average monthly box office collection stood at Rs 1,000 crore. Experts attribute the pick-up to compelling content, mostly Southern films such as RRR (Rise Roar Revolt) and KGF2 (Kolar Gold Fields 2), higher ticket prices and viewers seeking bigger cinematic experiences. than nature.
Signs of recovery were seen in mid-February, with the release of Gangubai Kathiawadi. It was in March, however, that the sector really took off, with the release of Kashmir Files and RRR, says Anand Vishal – Director of Sales and Revenue, INOX Leisure. “March was perhaps the best month in terms of gross revenue, where the company crossed Rs 200 crore in a single month. We are seeing a trend, which is very similar to the concept of ‘revenge trip’, where people want to experience big screen entertainment again,” he says.
The dubbed versions of films from the southern belt have won a substantial portion of box office collections across the country, including the heartland of Hindi. “Around 60-70% of total ticket sales activity was driven by regional content. This proves that storyline and content still reign supreme,” observes Vishal Sawhney, director and CEO of Carnival Cinemas.
With blockbuster programming this year, with Indian and international releases, GroupM iTV and Ormax Media report estimates that the domestic box office could close CY22 with gross revenue of Rs 12,515 crore, beating its previous best (CY19) of Rs 1,567 crore.
Not without challenges
Despite the promising forecasts, the threat of the pandemic continues to loom with infections on the rise again. Again, except for a few movies, most Bollywood movies failed to take off. “It would be interesting to see how the upcoming big bets for Hindi cinema like Laal Singh Chaddha and Brahmastra play out. If these films fail, we could see an extremely negative impact,” says Karan Taurani, Senior Vice President of Elara Capital. He also sees inflation as a major challenge. While consumers were happy to shell out 15-20% more on tickets and refreshments, rising inflation could be a spoiler.
Another concern is movie ad revenue, though Vishal says INOX is expected to reach pre-pandemic numbers within the next two months. “A lot of new-age and rookie advertisers such as CarDekho, Byju’s, Acko and Zepto advertise with us,” he says.
While the number of advertisers is around 10% lower than before the pandemic, revenues are still around 30% short. Taurani says this is because prices have yet to get back on track. He adds that advertising could reach pre-Covid levels by the end of FY24, if there are no interruptions over the next six to nine months. However, for FY23, ad revenue could remain at around 75% of pre-pandemic levels.
The story of revival
* CY22 box office gross revenue expected to reach Rs 12,515 crore
* Cinema advertisers may hit the 350 mark during the 2022 holiday season
* 280 brands announced in the release week of KGF: Chapter 2
* This is 25% less than the peak of interest for the brand in 2019
(Source: GroupM iTV and Ormax Media Report, June 2022)