Filmmakers call for a longer theatrical window to grow footfalls

MUMBAI: With the theatre-going audience voting with their feet by punishing bad movies, the key stakeholders in the Hindi film industry have suggested radical ideas to restore the confidence of cine-goers.

At a panel discussion during the FICCI Frames 2018, panellists have suggested that there is a need to create a strong windowing policy in addition to creating compulsive theatre viewing films to bring the audience back to the theatres.

The panel ‘Dwindling Box office collections: What needs to be done to turn it around’ moderated by Fox Star Studios CEO Vijay Singh discussed the factors that are impacting the footfalls in theatres.

The panel comprised of Dharma Productions CEO Apoorva Mehta, Viacom18 Motion Pictures COO Ajit Andhare, Sony Pictures MD Vivek Krishnani, Abundantia Entertainment Founder and CEO Vikram Malhotra, Vidharbha Exhibitors Director Akshaye Rathi and BR Films Producers & Filmmaker Abhay Chopra.

The panellists agreed that there is a need to have a strong windowing policy. According to the panellists, the current provision of an 8-week window for the film to release on television and other screen is impacting the box office collection. The small window gap has led to the mentality of ‘why to watch in the theatre when it is going to be on Television in three months gap’.

Rathi also said that one needs good content to bring the audiences back to the cinemas. There is a need to get more screens especially in Tier II and III cities but the need to offer spectacle and good content on that screen is more important to increase the footfalls.

“The reason why the growth in footfall has stagnated is that we haven’t dished out enough content for cinema to sustain. We haven’t been able to fuel the existing screens. We talk about high ticket price but we have an example of Padmavat and Baahubali where people came to multiplex and bought the tickets at a premium. So, it is all about given that spectacle cinematic experience. In Hindi industry, we don’t have compulsive theatre viewing films, whereas in Hollywood or even in South we have one film every month that is a compulsive theatrical film. Whereas here we are busy making telefilms and putting it on theatres,” Rathi added.

Krishnani also stated that there is a need to cap the ticket price to increase footfalls. He gave the example of South India where the price of the tickets has been capped leading to greater occupancy.

“However, in South last year 2016-17, the occupancy has gone up to 40-45% and there are many reasons behind the growth. Content being the primary factor but another factor is ticket price. The ticket prices in South are capped at the certain limit. Here, if we are charging 2000 rupees for tickets and another 2000 for popcorn and Pepsi then we are going to get the select audience. The reason why every is moving to OTT is that the data prices have gone down that is what actually competing to ticket prices,” he added.

It was also noted that single screens have also affected the box office, as it has curbed the option for those people who could have been able to spend Rs 60 to Rs 100 at the best.

However, Malhotra suggested that the production of franchise-led cinema like Hollywood will help the industry to grow footfalls.

Following the success of Bollywood film in China, Mehta further added that we also have to open a new opportunity to work with international markets to increase the reach and to grow our box office.

“We need to work on cross-pollination and get more audience not only from international markets but even within India. We need to get the audience from South and other regional markets. We need to make films which can cater to different markets. We need films like Baahubali to be made in Hindi film industry which can be reached in other territories,” he added.

Apart from the OTT eating the major chunk of theatres footfall and fall in content quality, piracy remains another major issue for the industry. Andhare said people don’t take piracy seriously and it has an adverse impact on the cinema business. “It is not difficult to stop the audience from recording a film in theatres. We need to have more strict rules against piracy. Content is easily available these days. More people are watching films but they are watching content on different screens easily available to them.”