There are mysteries about which we can only speculate — the Bermuda Triangle, the smile on Leonardo a Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and box office collections in India. Inscrutable and shrouded in ambiguities, the question of how much money a film has made during its theatrical run is difficult to answer reliably. The numbers offered by producers are often suspected to be inflated while distributors often claim the returns to be lower. Offering a reliable data set is industry watcher Ormax Media, which has recently published “The India Box Office Report”. The report offers learnings from the domestic box office performance of films released in the first six months of this year, from January to June.
While the cumulative box office stands at ₹4,868 Cr — 15% lower than the same period in 2022 — what is remarkable is the lion’s share of Hindi cinema. (Last year, the success of non-Hindi films led to “pan-Indian” becoming the most overused term in cinema discourse.) Over 37% of the Rs. 4,868 crore has been contributed by Hindi cinema, the highest among all languages. Pathaan (2023), the highest grossing film, makes up 13% of the overall share. In 2023, five of the top 10 films were Hindi; three were Tamil; two were Telugu. After years of moaning the death of Hindi cinema at the altar of pan-Indian films, are we seeing a reckoning?
Except The Kerala Story (2023), all the Hindi films are big budget tentpole films. The reliance of studios on these big budget films is a little complicated. On the one hand, it seems to rake in the footfalls — though with films like Adipurush (2023), which has claimed its production budget was Rs. 600 crore, and Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan with its Rs. 225 crore budget, the footfall was not able to help the films break even. On the other hand, the success of these big-budget, star-driven films cements the existing belief that these are the only films that work commercially. The implication is that these are the factors that mobilize an audience to buy tickets when the release window between theatrical and OTT has shrunk tremendously.
Also striking is the success of Fast X (2023), which is the only Hollywood film on Ormax’s list. This is despite a spate of high-profile releases in the first six months of the year. The films from the Marvel cinematic universe, John Wick: Chapter 4 and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny did not make the cut.
Curiously, the share of South languages has fallen from 50% to 44% — largely because of the share of Kannada language cinema dropping precipitously. (Last year had both KGF: Chapter 2 and Kantara, both Kannada breakaway successes, achieving pan-Indian success.)
As we move into the second half of 2023, with big budget Telugu films like Salaar: Part 1 – Ceasefire starring Prabhas, and potential blockbusters like Jawan starring Shah Rukh Khan and Tiger 3 starring Salman Khan, the hope is that we are able to breach the ₹10,000 Cr mark — a sign of a healthy box office and thriving film industry.