Box office reports in India used to be random and unreliable. A lot of analysts reported collections by word of mouth. Often they didn't want to displease some major studio head and hence over-reported earnings. To add to this you almost never knew how much a movie cost to make and market - which is critical in determining if it was successful or not. Basically a successful movie is one that makes money for its investors (collections minus budget must be greater than zero). This lack of information created chaos and a lot of uncertainty about the true box office fate of a film. Often you'd see trade analysts use silly words like "semi-hit" or "average hit".
Things have decidedly improved in the last two years. There are some authorities that can be relied on to report box office figures accurately. Thankfully the unreliable ones read the reliable sites carefully and match their "reports" to support the more accurate ones out there - thus creating critical mass of opinion. You still can't tell what a movie's true costs are (to be fair you can't in any film industry including Hollywood), but you can feel out the general consensus and come to a fairly reasonable conclusion.
Every year I track the box office performance of Bollywood. I read reports, I cross-reference collections and I look for second and third opinions on almost every film. I mark each film either a HIT or FLOP - you either made money or you didn't. I've done this for four years now. The results are in the picture below.
You'll see that over the last four years Bollywood has been showing a steady increase in its Hit Ratio (the number of hits to flop in a given year). When I started tracking box office in 2009, the Hit Ratio was a mere 10% - which means out of every 10 films Bollywood made, only 1 was going to be a hit. This ratio improved to 13% in 2010. In 2011, it climbed to 18%. This year its running at about 21%. If I take the year's pending releases and predict its box office, Bollywood will likely end the year at a 26% ratio. Which means roughly 1 in 4 movies that Bollywood makes are hits. Film financing is now officially a safer investment option than betting on the Indian cricket team!
How did Bollywood do it? There are several trends I see which we will dig into in some detail at other times on this blog.
- Make more story driven films (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Vicky Donor)
- Make smutty films on the cheap (anything by Mahesh Bhatt)
- Make more horror movies and thrillers (anything by Mahesh Bhatt)
- In fact, be Mahesh Bhatt!
- Make sequels, even if they don't make sense (Golmaal 3, Housefull 2, Jannat 2)
- Market the crap out of your film (Cocktail, Ra.One)
- Make more films with Salman Khan (Bodyguard, Dabangg, Ek Tha Tiger)
- If you can't get Salman, get either Ajay Devgn (Singham, Bol Bachchan) or Emraan Hashmi (Raaz 3)
- Women still don't matter at the box office, unless you are Vidya Balan (Kahaani) or Sridevi (English Vinglish). So don't spend too much money there - that will help with profits
Successes this year:Agneepath, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani, Housefull 2, Vicky Donor, Jannat 2, Ishaqzaade, Rowdy Rathore, Ferrari Ki Sawaari, Gangs of Wasseypur, Bol Bachchan, Cocktail, Ek Tha Tiger, Raaz 3, Barfi!, Oh My God, English Vinglish
To round out data for the year, I predicted the following movies this year to be successes:
Student of the Year, Rush, 1920 - The Evil Returns, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Son of Sardar, Talaash, Khiladi 786, Dabangg 2