Indian cinema, which had been witnessing a decline as a medium with the end of Doordarshan’s monopoly days, has been able to redeem itself, if the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2006 data is anything to go by. The medium has seen some unprecedented growth in the last year, according to the IRS 2006.
On the overall level, when compared with IRS 2005 R1, IRS 2006 R1 shows a 21.5 per cent growth in cinema, which is the highest across mediums. When seen closely, the data shows that the growth largely comes from southern and eastern markets and much credit can be given to the penetration of theatres. Speaking on this, Suresh Nimbalkar, Associate Vice-President, Hansa Research, explained, “If you see the state-wise penetration of cinema, most of the growth is coming from the southern states (except for Andhra Pradesh) and eastern states.”
Citing a technical reason for the growth, Nimbalkar said, “One possible reason for the increase in cinema could be the change in definition of cinema reach. Till IRS 2003 R2, cinema reach was based on ‘frequency’ (that is, watched cinema ever). From IRS 2005 R2, we changed this to ‘recency’ (watched cinema in past six months). It is much easier for the respondent to answer a specific yes / no question (Did you watch cinema in the past six months?) than answer the frequency question (How frequently do you watch cinema in theatre?). As a result of this increase in the accuracy, we are able to capture changes in the market better.”
Industry leaders see this as a development in the waiting. Giving another point of view on why there has been an increase in the medium, Manish Porwal, Executive Director, Starcom (West), elaborated, “There has been a resurgence of movies and, therefore, cinema in the past few years. The trend has been fairly accentuated in metros and small towns and rural India. The reasons are manifold. Better software and hardware, multiplexes and modern cinema halls providing better environment for family viewing and the overall rise in disposable income and its being spent on entertainment are few big ones.”
Insight’s Business Director, Kunal Jamuar, agreed with him on this point. He said, “The answer for increase in cinemas lies in two factors – better content (that is, better movies) and better distribution points (that is, malls and multiplexes). This is the primary cause for the increase. Also, the new wave of cinema is being driven by distribution – one of the few instances where a distribution medium has led to a differential product offering.”
Perhaps another explanation for the increase is seen in the fact that the share of entertainment in an average household monthly expense has doubled in the last five years and cinema is getting its share of that. To add to this, Indian movies have come of age and are no longer cheap versions of Hollywood flicks or just romantic melodramas as they used to be. There are films made with much better technology, and there are all kinds of movies that cater to different tastes.
For Porwal, the path ahead for the medium is also a positive one. He said, “Given the choice, the consumers are now happy and even more trigger happy. They are learning to choose. Advertisers will have to learn to deal with this change. They need to respect the fact that consumers now really choose. Advertisers already are realising that no longer is exposure of advertising is good enough. You need to connect with the audience and engage them. While advertising grows at a fast pace, below the line and passion or special interest media would grow even faster.”
Surely cinema is a medium to watch out for and if the initiatives and branding seen in some of the multiplexes is anything to go by, advertisers are already seeing the merit to be present in theatre space.