Disruptive reels

This year has been a mysterious magical pot for the Indian cinema, says Sushilkumar Agrawal

Years tick by, films come and go, so does the ebb and flow in the film industry. Cine-omnivores crank out the countdown lists every December, but what makes a film truly unforgettable, no one knows. 2018 seemed to be a good year for Bollywood as compared to the past two years. Not only did some actors got their first 100-crore marks, but many small budget, low star cast and good content films also outperformed the biggies at the box office. Many films worked unexpectedly and also witnessed many young and debutant filmmakers making their mark. Starring Ranbir Kapoor, Sanju ruled the roost reaching Rs 300-crore mark, followed by Deepika Padukone’s Padmaavat. Following were Race 3, Badhaai Ho, Stree, Raazi, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raid, Gold, Satyamev Jayate, Padman, Veere Di Wedding, Sui Dhaaga, Dhadak, Parmanu, Andhadun, 2.0 and others. Many content-driven films registered Rs 100 crore at the box office. Actor Rajkummar Rao’s Stree turned out to be one of the biggest surprise hits grossing over Rs 100 crore in just two weeks. Whereas, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety turned out be a smashing hit. Ayushmann Khurrana’s Badhaai Hoearned more than Baahubali 2 in its sixth weekend. There were four films from the South Indian cinema, Sarkar, Rangasthalam, Bharat Ane Nenu and 2.0, each of which grossed more than Rs 150 crore globally. Apart from Bollywood, Hollywood also had a great year in 2018. Avengers Infinity War garnered over $43,594,456 followed with Black Panther collecting $10,458,639 and Incredibles 2 over $7,641,308 in India. These films were released in English and many other Indian languages. In fact, Incredibles 2 collected Rs 22.3 crore within just five days of its release here, becoming the highest grossing animation English film ever released in India. Interestingly, The Stolen Princess became the first English animation film from Ukraine to release in India in English, Hindi and Tamil and found favour with the audience. Another interesting trend seen this year was the acute traction that OTT platforms garnered. Netflix India became profitable in its first year of operations clocking a net profit of Rs 20.2 lakh. Series like Sacred Games, Lust Stories, Mirzapur and many others which were streamed on various OTT platforms had the audience hooked for more unconventional content. The combination of mobile phone penetration and cost-effective data prices have made it easy for the consumers to watch it as per their convenience and schedule. On the last count, there are roughly around 30 OTTs active in India currently, including Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Alt Balaji, Eros Now, Zee 5 and others. Over and above China, newer non-traditional, non Indian diaspora global markets like Russia, Turkey, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Latin America and France are opening up to the Indian cinema. Over and above theatrical release, their television and digital platforms also are being explored to make our films get an access to their audience. In this year, Indian film content has been customised for the mainstream audience’s languages and sensibilities. Rani Mukerji-starring Hichki has so far been released in Russia, Kazakhstan,Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. It extended the frontiers that Bajrangi Bhaijaan had started to chart out with its release in China and Turkey this year. The year also witnessed a revolution in the acoustics department. For the first time in India, the 4D SLR sound system technology was introduced with the release of the film 2.0. In this technology over and above the speakers placed on both the sides and above the watcher, there would be speakers below the seats to provide the audience with sound from the closest source, hence elevating their film watching experience. Keeping in mind the dismal screen count in India, the year also witnessed existing multiplex chains expanding their footprints into small towns and cities to capitalise on the potential that these have to offer. This was done keeping in mind the substantial appetite of film-goers who do not have enough space or platforms to see the films. According to the FICCI Frames Report 2018, India has 9,530 cinema screens compared to over 44,000 in China and over 40,393 in the United States. Despite producing the largest number of films in the world per year, India still remains one of the most under-penetrated markets with an average of eight screens per million people. This is primarily due to lack of screens in Tier II, Tier III and Tier IV cities, hence leaving a large section of the population with limited screen access. The biggest films in India reach only about 30-35 per cent of the population. The country has the capacity of at least 23,000 more screens to be implemented in the next 10 years Sensing this opportunity, new players have entered the exhibition business while strongly concentrating on the Tier II to Tier IV markets in MP, UP, Rajasthan and other places. Actor Ajay Devgn under his brand name NY Cinemas already has 17 operational screens and is expanding in more geographical areas. With the recent slash in GST on film tickets from 18 per cent to 12 per cent and from 28 per cent to 18 per cent,  both the exhibition infrastructure and creative development will get a strong impetus and attract substantial investments. Indeed the year has proven to be a disruptive one for the entire film industry’s ecosystem and the end consumer. With major films releasing in 2019, one can look forward to more positive and interesting disruptions to follow in 2019 too. Read more posts… (The author is the CEO of Ultra Media and Entertainment Group.) Thursday, 27 December 2018 | Sushilkumar Agrawal–

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