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Step 1 towards authentic box-office figures: PVR ties up with comScore


But given the sheer diversity and complexity of the nearly $2 billion Indian film industry, a centralized box-office analytics system remains a daunting challenge.

IANS

India may be a world leader in terms of films produced each year, but authentic information on box-office statistics is still not available. Though the screen count per million population in India is among the lowest, given the sheer diversity and complexity of the nearly $2 billion Indian film industry, a centralized box-office analytics system remains a daunting challenge.

"For a country of our size and diversity, adaptation to change always is a slow process... but it shall happen sooner than later," Kamal Gianchandani, chief of strategy, PVR Ltd, told IANS.

"We are of the belief that the time has come for the Indian movie Industry to move towards an era of data efficiency and analytics to optimize its potential," he added.

The movie exhibition company PVR Cinemas – with its circuit of 562 screens in 48 Indian cities – recently tied up with US-based global media measurement and analytics company comScore (formerly Rentrak), which records box-office figures from over 1,25,000 screens in more than 25,000 theatres across the globe.

The company first entered the Indian market in 2014 in a tie-up with the Aamir Khan-starrer PK. But that was a one-off association for one film.

"India is the most challenging market across the world because of the diversity, complexity and large number of single screens. So it has been an extremely challenging market, and the progress has been very slow but steady," Rajkumar Akella, managing director, comScore India – Theatrical, told IANS.

Film business and trade expert Girish Johar believes it will take five to 10 years for India to have a full-fledged system in place, given how "geographically vast and fragmented" the market is.

comScore collects 95% of the global box-office data, and the remaining, Akella said, is largely from India as the country "literally accounts for 3-4% of the data".

In the recent past, the race to the 'Rs100-crore club' has seen unprecedented noise in Hindi cinema. The box-office numbers given out are mostly from the producers, distributors or trade pundits, without any stamp of authenticity. These are mostly based on daily collection reports from theatres.

Film industry veteran Amit Khanna says the calculation method of box-office figures in India is not in sync with what is practised the world over. "It's wrong," Khanna, former chairman of Reliance Entertainment, told IANS. "People in India give out gross figures after subtracting the entertainment tax, whereas they should report in net, which is what the consumer spends on a ticket."

If all stakeholders – producers, distributors and exhibitors – start providing information to a service like comScore, it could give the industry a uniform currency of box-office figures.

How does it work? "We collect data directly from theatres. It's an automated software, so that's most accurate without manual intervention," Akella explained. However, he added, as of now the company relies on manual feeding of numbers for single screens which have not started e-ticketing.

Is connectivity not an issue? "As a country, we are well on course to achieve 100% connectivity, superior bandwidth and 4G services. Technology is proliferating. E-ticketing solutions are available and affordable to even single screens," Gianchandani said.

Johar feels the government must make efforts to give incentives to single screens to motivate computerized ticketing. Having said that, one cannot ignore how the dominance of single-screen theatres vis-a-vis multiplexes in the Indian market is quite a challenge in a single-point system of box-office reporting.

Khanna said: "If India has about 9,000 screens, about 7,500 of them are single screens. Single-screen exhibitors sometimes under-report ticket sales while trying to save on entertainment tax, and that distorts the figures. On the other hand, distributors and producers hike their numbers by 10-15% when they give out the figures." Khanna also pointed out how the film industry is currently in bad shape given the dearth of screens.

According to the KPMG-FICCI Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2016, screen penetration in India stands at 6 per million versus 23 per million in China and 126 per million in the US. The report says there is a need to have at least 20,000 screens to do justice to all the films that are being produced in the country.