William Goldman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, summed up the movie business’s predicament in an iconic quote: “Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion-picture field knows for certain what’s going to work.”
This held true for the Indian film industry in 2022. After a near-two-year break due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns, India’s theatres finally started operating at full capacity this year. Yet, 2022 saw a dry spell dry spell The Economic Times Box-Office 2022 Rewind: From 'Shamshera' to 'Laal Singh Chaddha', 8 Bollywood films that sank without a trace Read more as some of the biggest movies—from Shamshera to Lal Singh Chaddha—failed to lure the crowd back to cinema halls.
PVR Ltd, the country’s largest multiplex chain, saw its occupancy dip to the lowest levels in almost a decade, down to just 24% in the quarter ended September 2022, according to the company’s filings. Even the first so-called post-pandemic quarter (April to June 2022) recorded an occupancy rate of just 34%, lower than that in the same period before the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.
Customer footfall—the total number of tickets sold—at PVR multiplexes also witnessed a decline. Only 43 million people turned up to watch movies in the first six months of the year ending March 2023, compared to 56 million in the same period before the pandemic.
From online shopping to digital payments, Covid-19 induced many behavioural shifts. One among them was how people consume content. As they turned to over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, and ZEE5, to beat the lockdown blues, filmmakers, too, found a new way to reach their audience.
In India, films such as Dil Bechara, Gulabo Sitabo, Coolie No. 1, and Bhuj found direct release on these platforms. In western countries, movies such as Dune, Wonder Woman 1984, and Halloween Kills were refashioned as simultaneous HBO Max or Peacock releases.
But that’s not all. When theatres reopened in November 2021, multiplexes increased ticket and food-and-beverage prices to recoup their losses.
Thanks to its average ticket prices soaring to an all-time high and a 32% rise in average food-and-beverage (F&B) spending per head, PVR reported revenues of Rs 1,000 crore (~US$125 million) in the quarter ended June 2022, up Rs 112 crore (US$14 million) from the same pre-pandemic period.
Interestingly, the Kannada movie KGF 2 alone contributed 23% to PVR’s overall box-office collections during the quarter, showcasing that people aren’t shying away from loosening their purse strings, provided the content, irrespective of language, is worth it.