Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Box Office Report: Bollywood is making more hits!

Bollywood is learning how to manufacture hits. If you look at the box office performance of movies over the last four years, you will see that the film factory has learnt how to lower their risk and produce more hits year over year. There is some data to back that up, which I'll explain.

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


Ritu said...

Aspi, thanks for keeping comments open - I don't like logging in when posting comments.

I think the most surprising hit movie was Kahaani. When will you write more about each point in the post?

RedZebra said...

Sridevi has had one hit. Too early to call her a superstar. We have to wait and see what her next movie is like. She is older so very limited roles will be given to her. Remember Madhuri's comeback. There was a lot of excitement then nothing.

Radhika said...

Awesome to see all the posters in collage! Have you thought of making a graphic novel with movie posters and your devastating speech bubbles :)

Unknown said...

I'm happy to keep comments open but all that spam really kills me. Maybe I'll bear it for a while :)

RedZebra, agree with that.

Radhika, great idea. I should try that!

Slim said...

Women don't matter at the box office - when women are the main character. But if a woman is playing a side character and is famous does she make a difference to the movie being hit? I saw ek main aur ek tu because it had Kareena in it.

Karan Rana said...

Hi again, ASPI...
nice to see someone is keeping an eye on the hit:flop ratio...

Though it is pleasing that bollywood factory is manufacturing more and more hits, but one thing that is slowly growing on me and will probably kill me one day is that Bollywood is placing style over substance.

i wish more and more movies like Kahani, Vicky Donor,etc. are made, which go hit on grounds of content (along with entertainment no doubt).
But when films like Rowdy Rathore fetch a bugs me.

Lets hope the motive is to deliver value along with hits...

Karan Rana said...

Hi Aspi..

I wish Bollywood delivers value along with hits..
Content based films like kahaani and vicky donor are always welcome but when a zero-substance film rowdy rathore fetches a 100-cr, it bugs me.

Unknown said...

Karan, great comments. I see the Rowdy Rathore style movie (also Dabanng) as a trend. It's captures a certain sensibility that's flowing through Indian audiences right now. Its like when Hip Hop hit the music market a bunch of disenfranchized, older music lovers started listening to Country because it reminded them of 70s rock that they grew up on.

I think the return of the old masala movie is along those lines and worth exploring on this blog some day.

Unknown said...

There were films which were released without much fancy and owing to the innovative nature of the content that they had, they emerged as surprise hits, or rather sleeper hits, i.e. they gained in the footfalls by the word of mouth publicity. 2012 has indeed shown the way that the Indian film viewing public has matured and it is open to embrace content which is ‘zara hat ke’, and it is a morale booster for such film making fraternity to keep on trying to beat the untreated path. Media Entertaiment