In the last couple of quarters, very few Bollywood movies have managed to ring in the cash counters. Only three movies — ‘The Kashmir Files’, ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ and ‘Suryavanshi’ — managed to recover investments, Emkay Global Financial Services said in a report.
The recent underperformance is in stark contrast to the pre-Covid times during which 35-40 per cent were able to cover production costs from the theatrical release.
The performance of Bollywood movies recently has clearly been underwhelming, with several mid- to high-budget films failing to leave a mark at the box office. On the other hand, regional (South) movies have managed to attract audiences to the theatres, the report said.
Bollywood has always been the mainstay for sustainably driving overall box-office collections. Pre-Covid, it used to contribute 60 per cent of the total box office collections. Bollywood movies were also the highest-grossing movies in 11 of the 16 pre-Covid quarters.
However, in the post-pandemic era, the overall contribution has dropped significantly, as Bollywood films failed to attract audiences, Emkay Global said.
The recent underperformance of Bollywood movies throws up a pertinent question: Is it just the weak content or are there other external factors like social media angst, the emergence of OTT or anything else at work? In case of the second factor, the impact is more likely to be long term and can possibly dent long-term earnings of film exhibitors. However, we believe that content is the missing factor given that most movies released after Covid did not receive positive reviews from critics at the outset, translating into weak box office collections. Several big-budget movies, including the recently released Samrat Prithivraj, received weak- to mixed reviews. In our view, this is one of the primary reasons behind subdued box-office collections, Emkay Global said.
Reducing clout of superstars; content is king, the report said. In the past, big stars have been able to attract audiences to theatres en masse, given their strong legacy. However, changing preferences of audiences have now resulted in content being the primary focus. These highly touted superstars are no longer able to attract audiences based on just their brand names (YouTube trailer views also prove this structural change). Smaller films with relatively less known star cast but stronger content have been able to pull in the audiences, while several big names have seen their films’ box-office collections erode.
While several Bollywood movies have failed at the box office in the last couple of quarters, we note that the number of Bollywood film releases was also well below the pre-Covid levels. The number of Bollywood movie releases, which used to be on par with the number of Tamil and Telugu movies in 2019, fell behind its regional counterparts in 2021.
The importance of Bollywood to box-office collections can be gauged from the fact that, on average, it contributed 60 per cent of the overall collections in the 16 quarters prior to the pandemic. Bollywood movies were also the highest-grossing movies in 11 of the 16 pre-Covid quarters. However, in the last couple of quarters, the performance of Bollywood movies has declined, with only three films delivering a strong show in the box office. This leaves the percentage of hit movies from Bollywood at a paltry 10 per cent vs. the pre-Covid level of 35-40 per cent.
Historically, Bollywood films have seen decent collections even when the content was weak, given the strong fan following of superstars. That seems to have changed with time, with content now being the primary driver. Most movies released in the last 2-3 quarters have gotten mixed to negative critic reviews, indicating that weak content is the primary factor for the poor performance.
In the past as well, there were instances where Bollywood underperformed for a couple of quarters before bouncing back, which makes us believe that it would be repeated this time as well. Continued disappointment from Bollywood content would delay ad revenue recovery for the multiplexes, Emkay Global said.