Hindi movies experience a 50% drop in attendance.
NEW DELHI : Yash Raj Film’s Pathaan has offered a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered Hindi film industry, but cinema attendance in Hindi-speaking markets has plummeted by nearly half post-covid. Even though big hits such as Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and Drishyam 2 have reported 15 million ticket sales, theatre owners lamented that they are only a fraction of the pre-covid blockbusters such as Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Dangal, which raked in a staggering 50 million each.
Footfalls for Hindi cinema fell to 189 million in 2022 from 341 million in 2019, 316 million in 2018 and 301 million in 2017, according to media consulting firm Ormax.
A major chunk of the growth in box office collections is due to the rise in ticket prices, which is keeping several audience segments away from theatres. Further, discount initiatives like National Cinema Day have proven to be one-offs and will not work when the film is known to start streaming on home devices within four weeks.
Overall, theatres recorded footfalls of 892 million across languages in 2022 against 1.03 billion in 2019, with south Indian films bringing in more audiences. Cinemas managed footfalls of 945 million in 2018 and 1.01 billion in the previous year, the Ormax report added. With hits like RRR, Telugu cinema, on the other hand, did better, notching up 233 million footfalls in 2022 versus 182 million in 2019.
“There has definitely been a dip in footfalls, and all things considered, people are not coming to theatres with the same enthusiasm as before, which is a function of not wanting to experiment with content but coming only when there is a certain assurance of a good time,” said Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas. “Everyone knows the film will now be available on a streaming platform within eight weeks.”
The difference may not seem as stark with the big, large-scale tentpole films, but the small and mid-budget films are taking an even bigger hit, experts say.
The number of theatrical releases has reduced post-lockdown, said Ashish Kanakia, chief executive of MovieMax Cinemas. “Also, audiences have become content-conscious, and unless the film creates an urgency to be watched in theatres, people are waiting for them to release on OTT platforms. The footfalls totally depend on the kind of experience they are getting from a film. OTT has never been a competition when it comes to experience-led content, but for smaller films, people are showing the tendency to wait and watch unless they hear terrific word-of-mouth,” Kanakia said.
People will increasingly watch fewer films in theatres, especially the lower segments of the audience who were anyway going only four to five times a year, said independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan. “A lot of people, for instance, have already transitioned to visiting the theatre once a month from once a week earlier. Fewer screens and more expensive cinemas are the future,” Chauhan said.