Demonetisation, piracy make 2016 a bad year for Bollywood box office

Some single screen theatres also shut down nationwide after the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were scrapped

Ians December 29, 2016

Only eight out of the approximately 230 Hindi films released in 2016 surpassed the glorified INR1 billion club in India, giving the industry only an average tally of around INR27 billion, according to industry insiders.

This happened in a year when the Indian government's demonetisation move in early November disturbed the projected earnings for some movies, when piracy ate into some films' business and when some producers got into a tussle with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

Barring Shah Rukh Khan, whose Fan did not prove to be like most of the superstar's box office wonders, Bollywood's other A-listers, including Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar, had a bright year with their films raking in the moolah and making it to the INR1 billion club.

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There is no centralised agency to record Bollywood's box office numbers. But going by film trade experts and industry sources, Salman registered good returns with Sultan, Akshay won the audiences' hearts with Airlift, Housefull 3 and Rustom, and Aamir's Dangal Christmas release added to the festive season's celebratory mood.

While Udta Punjab failed to light up the box office as expected after it got into a controversy when its makers fought against CBFC over extensive cuts made by them over showcasing "explicit language and drug consumption" in the film, the Great Grand Masti sex comedy fell prey to piracy.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation move also spelt hard luck for Bollywood as movie buffs were reluctant to visit theatres -- and were instead increasing "footfalls" at queues outside banks. Some single screen theatres also shut down nationwide after the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were scrapped.

In fact, director Vishal Pandya pushed the release date of his film Wajah Tum Ho to December 16 due to demonetisation.

"It has been a bad year. Overall, I feel if the content is not good, then why will people spend money unnecessarily? Obviously, people will not go to theatres if you don't give them good content. With Dangal, the content is powerful. So, people are watching it," trade analyst Vinod Mirani told IANS.

Hopes were high from movies like Wazir, Fitoor, Fan, Azhar, Te3n, Mohenjo Daro, A Flying Jatt, Baar Baar Dekho, Mirzya, Rock On!! 2 and Befikre, which had distinctive story lines, but they failed to elicit the expected response.

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According to numbers estimated by trade insiders, while 1.46 billion people went to see Bollywood films released in 2009, the number came down to 1.18 billion in 2016.

Respite was brought in by the eight movies that crossed the Rs 100 crore mark. These include Airlift (INR1.25 billion), Rustom (INR1.22 billion), Housefull 3 (INR1.07 billion), Sultan (INR3 billion), M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (INR1.2 billion), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (INR1.12 billion), Shivaay (INR1 billion) and Dangal (INR1.55 billion in five days since its release on December 23).

Some other films which did well at the box office included Neerja, Kapoor & Sons, Ki & Ka, Baaghi, Pink and Dear Zindagi.

Devang Sampat, Director -- Strategic Initiatives, Cinepolis India, said despite all the hurdles, his cinema chain was able to witness a growth of 20% in footfalls as compared to the previous year.

"With the announcement of demonetisation, we also took immediate measures to welcome the move to keep ourselves aligned with the government's cashless economy concept. Cinepolis came out with exciting offers on cashless transaction for the movie lovers which gave a positive spin to all the digital transactions," he said.

However, despite the "average" response at the box office, 2016 is ending on a positive note with Dangal increasing the footfalls at cinemas while overcoming demonetisation problems.

"After a very long time, the shows are going houseful, all thanks to Dangal. We are expecting more than INR2.5 billion," film expert Rajesh Thadani said.

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Now all eyes are on films releasing in 2017, as the slate looks fascinating with Shah Rukh starrer Raees and Kaabil, which will bring back the hit father-son duo Rakesh Roshan and Hrithik Roshan together, releasing in January.


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