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Why did several Bollywood films bomb at the box office in 2014?

Compared to 2013, the Hindi film industry suffered a considerable revenue dip this year. What are the reasons for this decline?

The year 2014 witnessed the rise of a new order at the box office but in terms of success one saw a drastic drop. If one compares the commercial success of significant films at the marquee, the number of Hindi films that were hits — or at least broke even in terms of business — were a measly 19 as compared to 2013 which had close to 25. 2012 had about 24 successful releases.

Films like Humshakals, The Shaukeens, Kill Dil and Action Jackson were expected to set the box-office on fire — metaphorically speaking, of course — but what they managed at the marquee is far from hot
Films like 'Humshakals', 'The Shaukeens', 'Kill Dil' and 'Action Jackson' were expected to set the box-office on fire — metaphorically speaking, of course — but what they managed at the marquee is far from hot

Considering there were at least 120 releases in this calendar year — of course, we have not taken Aamir Khan's 'pk' into account — we're talking about huge figures here.

The Shaukeen
'The Shaukeens'

To understand how 2014 fared for the Hindi film industry, let's break down certain significant aspects that are the highlights of the passing year...

Kill Dil
'Kill Dil'

Size matters
Although several small-budgeted films managed to earn a Friday release, not all of them made hay when the sun shone. What this translated into was a complicated scenario where the bigger films were too dull to attract crowd while the better, but smaller movies just couldn't make the most of the allotted space.

Action Jackson
'Action Jackson'

Like media observer Shailesh Kapoor informs, "The big reason for the drop in box office figures is that low and medium budget films are not getting any audiences. Ticket prices have gone up year-on-year and audiences today want to go to theatres only to watch big films which have good star cast or production values."

Saif Ali Khan-starrer Happy Ending did everything possible on the marketing front, but failed to score where it mattered the most
Saif Ali Khan-starrer 'Happy Ending' did everything possible on the marketing front, but failed to score where it mattered the most 

However, there were exceptions like 'Queen' starring Kangna Ranaut and the Shahid Kapoor-starrer 'Haider'. Both the modest budgeted films flourished exceedingly well purely on the basis of word-of-mouth.

Haider saw a steady rise in its footfall thanks to encouraging  reviews. The small-budget film starred established actors, but its grim theme proved to be a deterrent in certain quarters
'Haider' saw a steady rise in its footfall thanks to encouraging reviews. The small-budget film starred established actors, but its grim theme proved to be a deterrent in certain quarters

According to trade analyst Amod Mehra, 2014 had faced more flops than the previous year. So what exactly was the reason behind this anomaly? Mehra believes captivating content — or should we say, the lack of it? — has been a prime reason. "Content wasn't paid attention to during the making of several films that opened this year. Also, music which is an important marketing tool for a film, didn't quite impress the audiences."

Vikas Bahl’s woman-centric Queen, starring Kangna Ranaut in the leading role, was fairly budgeted but received encouraging figures
Vikas Bahl's woman-centric 'Queen', starring Kangna Ranaut in the leading role, was fairly budgeted but received encouraging figures 

According to a well-placed source in the industry, the film business has been growing year-on-year for the last five years. In fact, stats indicate that the growth was a staggering 38 per cent from 2011 to 2012, when the domestic net business grew from Rs 1,725 crore to Rs 2,375 crore. From 2012 to 2013 too, the growth was a healthy 17 per cent. But this year, we are staring at possible negative growth. "Even if 'pk' does exceptionally well, this year would fall at least 200 crore short of the Rs 2800 crore business of 2013. After an incredible crest, finally, the growth has stopped," adds Kapoor.

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, pulled a considerable crowd owing to the hype surrounding the $165 million venture
Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar', pulled a considerable crowd owing to the hype surrounding the $165 million venture

Limited to Rs 100 crore
Only five films have crossed the much-fabled Rs 100 crore mark in 2014. Vishal Anand of Fun Cinemas says he's not surprised by the apparent decline. However, he has noticed a positive trend too. "Unfortunately, the misses have been more this year making a lull at the box and poor collection. Only major plus that has happened in the last two years is that English (read: Hollywood) films have picked up and the acceptability also." After all, Hollywood releases, be it 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' or 'Guardians of the Galaxy' or the most recent 'Interstellar', saw encouraging queues outside the cinema halls.

Full house, empty show
Big films like 'Action Jackson', 'Happy Ending' and 'Kill Dil' fell flat at the box office. What is worrisome about this downward trend is the number of A-listers attached to these projects is too high. And that's not all. If a film doesn't do well at the box-office, the chances of it making a splash on the small screen diminish as well.

This year, very few films had content and repeat value. An industry insider on condition of anonymity shares an amusing thought. "The makers have begun to take the audiences for granted. As a result, they are more focussed on packaging rather than on the actually content of the film. What else can explain the way Saif Ali Khan was promoted for 'Happy Ending'? It has proved that a star does not always guarantee a hit."

Solutions
The industry feels there is a correction needed and stars need to guarantee at least a good opening for a film. There have been examples this year where a star hasn't been able to draw initial audience. So how exactly is the high price A-listers demand justified?

Distributor Ramesh Sippy believes it's high time the stars to cut their prices to have a cost-effective product. Also the stars price could be linked to their first weekend box office collection of their films — not just trade buzz. In other words, the star would require guaranteeing a certain draw on his or her name in the opening weekend. "This is an SOS call. If the producer is unable to make films, there will be no work and therefore becomes essential that the artiste or the actors understand this situation and not run shy of this scenario," adds Sippy.

Figure that

19
The number of successful films Bollywood has witnessed so far in 2014, compared to 25 films in 2013 and 24 in 2012

Rs 2800 crore
The total amount of business Hindi film industry approximately generated in 2013, a figure quite impossible to supersede this year

38%
The rate of growth from 2011 to 2012, when the domestic net business grew from Rs 1,725 crore to Rs 2,375 crore. This figure dipped down to 17% from 2012 to 2013

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