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The Indian box office seems to have shaken off the pandemic demons with a good start to CY2022. Box office collections touched Rs 4,002 crore for the January-April 2022 period, as per a GroupM iTV and Ormax Media report. It is also the first time ever the monthly average box office collection stood at Rs 1,000 crore. Experts attribute this recovery to compelling content, mostly Southern films such as RRR (Rise Roar Revolt) and KGF2 (Kolar Gold Fields 2), higher ticket prices and the fact that viewers are seeking larger-than-life cinematic experiences.

Signs of recovery were seen in the middle of 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 – chief sales and revenue officer, INOX Leisure. “March was perhaps the best month in terms of our gross revenues, where the company crossed Rs 200 crore in a single month. We’re seeing a trend, which is very similar to the ‘revenge travel’ concept, where people want to experience entertainment on the big screen once again,” he says.

Dubbed versions of movies from the Southern belt have walked away with a substantial portion of the box office collections from across the country, including the Hindi heartland. “About 60-70% of the total business in terms of ticket sales was led by regional content. This proves that the script and the content still reign supreme,” observes Vishal Sawhney, director and CEO, Carnival Cinemas.

With a blockbuster line up this year, featuring Indian and international releases, the GroupM iTV and Ormax Media report estimates domestic box office could close CY22 with gross revenues of Rs 12,515 crore, beating its previous best (CY19) by Rs 1,567 crore.

Not without challenges

Despite the promising forecast, the threat of the pandemic continues to hover with infections on the rise again. Again, barring a couple of movies, most Bollywood flicks have failed to take off. “It would be interesting to see how upcoming big bets for Hindi cinema like Laal Singh Chaddha and Brahmastra perform. If these films fail to perform, we could see a hugely negative impact,” says Karan Taurani, senior VP, Elara Capital. He also sees inflation as a key challenge. While consumers have been happy to shell out 15-20% more on tickets and refreshments, rising inflation could play spoilsport.

Another concern is in-cinema advertising revenue, though Vishal says INOX is set to reach pre-pandemic numbers in the next couple of months. “A lot of new-age and first time advertisers such as CarDekho, Byju’s, Acko and Zepto are advertising with us,” he says.

While the number of advertisers are about 10% lower than pre-pandemic times, revenues are still about 30% short. Taurani says this is because pricing is still to come back on track. He adds that advertising could reach pre-Covid levels by end-FY24, if there are no interruptions in the next six to nine months. However, for FY23, advertising revenues may remain at around 75% of pre-pandemic levels.

The revival story

* CY22 box office gross revenues set to reach Rs 12,515 crore

* In-cinema advertisers may reach the 350-mark during the 2022 festive period

* 280 brands advertised in the release week of KGF: Chapter 2

* This is 25% lower than peak brand interest in 2019

(Source: GroupM iTV and Ormax Media Report, June 2022)



Author: Howard Caldwell