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BY Anjana Naskar

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Q] Domestic box office numbers crossed Rs 4,002cr for the first time in two years while the remaining part of the year 2022 is projected to close at a gross domestic box office of Rs 12,515cr (highest ever). What are the factors that have driven the surge?
Ajay: 2019 was the best year for the Indian box office. Two years of lockdown and cinemas being shut, resulted in revenge consumption. The report also captures a very interesting trend that apart from Hindi and English, regional content is drawing in audiences across nation. These are some of the reasons which have led to the surge.

Q] The report says, Hindi cinema has contributed 38% to the box office. However, almost 60% of this share comes from Hindi dubbed versions of South Indian films. Especially with films like KGF 2 and RRR ruling the theatres, why do you feel South Indian content is faring better?
Shailesh: The last five years saw the breaking of the language barrier a lot more because people have now got comfortable with the idea of dubbing which was earlier seen as inferior to original content. With Bahubali first and then with OTT platforms in general where people are watching content not just in Indian languages, but in foreign languages, the Hindi audience is actually not comparing between South and Hindi. They are evaluating each film on its own merit. It is a good sign that audiences are opening up to films from multiple languages. It is not to say that original Hindi language films will not work. Recently Bhool Bhulaiyaa was on its way to touching 150 crore plus. There will hopefully be five to six big Hindi films, which would do 150, 200, 250 crore numbers. So I think this will get rounded off nicely. The 60% may only be 30%-35% by the end of the year.

Q] What percentage do you see Cinema advertising contributing to AdEX this year?
Ajay: Cinema overall in India was growing very fast. We were for many years below 1% of the total AdEx. At its peak we reached almost 2%. Will we get to 2% this year? Probably not but in the second half of the year, we see cinema advertising returning on a monthly basis to almost similar levels as 2019. And going into 2023, we see it blazing a high double digit growth even from these levels. So it is going to be a high growth medium because of the low base of 2020 and 2021, the fastest growing medium between 2022 and 2023.

Q] How do you see the future of regional cinema as compared to Hindi cinema?
Shailesh: It’s very bright. First of all the word regional itself, I feel we should question if that is relevant because today there are multiple languages, which have grown and a lot of big cinema is not limited to a region. Leaving aside Marathi, Punjabi and Bengali, when it comes to bigger films especially from Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada and even to some extent Malayalam markets, they have audiences across at least 3-4 states and sometimes all India. So, it’s going to be multi-language and English being one of them, which is big. When we see the percentage break up of Hindi vs. Tamil vs. Telugu, from an industry point of view it doesn’t matter where the box office comes from.

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