By Radhika Bhirani
India may be among the world leaders in terms of movies produced each year, but authentic information on box office statistics is still not available.
Even though the screen count per million population in India is one of the lowest, given the sheer diversity and complexity of the (approx.) $2 billion Indian film industry, a centralised box office analytics system remains a daunting challenge.
"For a country of our size and diversity, adoption to change always is a slow process... But it shall happen sooner than later," Kamal Gianchandani, Chief Of Strategy, PVR Ltd, said.
"We are of the belief that the time has come for the Indian movie Industry to move towards an era of data efficiency and analytics to optimise its potential," he added.
The movie exhibition company PVR Cinemas -- with its circuit of 562 screens in 48 Indian cities -- recently tied up with US-based global media measurement and analytics company comScore (formerly Rentrak) -- which records box office figures from over 125,000 screens in more than 25,000 theatres across the globe.
The company first entered the Indian market in 2014 in a tie-up with Aamir Khan starrer "PK". But that was a one-off association for one film.
"India is the most challenging market across the world because of the diversity, complexity and large number of single screens. So it has been an extremely challenging market, and the progress has been very slow, but steady," Rajkumar Akella, Managing Director, comScore India - Theatrical said.
Film business and trade expert Girish Johar feels there are still about five to 10 years before India can have a full-fledged system in place, given how "geographically vast and fragmented" the market is. comScore collects 95 per cent of the global box office data, and the remaining, Akella said, is largely from India as the country "literally accounts for three to four per cent of the data".
In the recent past, the race to the 'Rs 100-crore club' has seen an unprecedented rush and noise in the country. The box office numbers given out are mostly from the producers, distributors or trade pundits -- without a stamp of authenticity.
These are mostly based on Daily Collection Reports that they get from theatres.
Film industry veteran Amit Khanna says the calculation method of box office figures in India is not in sync with what's practiced the world over.
"It's wrong. People in India give out gross figures after subtracting the entertainment tax, whereas they should report in net, which is what the consumer spends on a ticket," Khanna, former chairman of Reliance Entertainment said.
If all stakeholders -- producers, distributors and exhibitors -- start providing information to a service like comScore, it could give the industry a uniform currency of box office figures.
How does it work?
"We collect data directly from theatres. It's an automated software, so that's most accurate without manual intervention," Akella explained. However, he added, as of now they rely on manual feeding of numbers for single screens which have not started e-ticketing.
Is connectivity not an issue?
"As a country, we are well on course to achieve 100 per cent connectivity, superior bandwidth and 4G services. Technology is proliferating. E-ticketing solutions are available and affordable to even single screens," Gianchandani said.
Johar feels the government must make efforts to give incentives to single screens to motivate computerised ticketing.
Having said that, one cannot ignore how the dominance of single screen theatres vis-a-vis multiplexes in the Indian market, is quite a challenge in a single point system of box office reporting.
Khanna said: "If India has about 9,000 screens, about 7,500 of them are single screens."
"Single screen exhibitors sometimes under-report ticket sales while trying to save on entertainment tax, and that distorts the figures. On the other hand, distributors and producers hike their numbers by 10 to 15 per cent when they give out the figures," he added, also pointing out how the film industry is currently in a bad shape given the dearth of screens.
According to the KPMG-Ficci Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2016, the screen penetration at India stands at 6 per million versus 23 per million in China and 126 per million in the US. The report says there's is a need to have at least 20,000 screens in order to do justice to all the films that are being produced in the country. (IANS)