India produces the largest number of films in the world — But a large section of its population still doesn’t have access to cinema screens


  • India produces the largest number of films in a year but the value of its film industry only puts it at the fifth position globally at $1.9 billion.
  • Only 30-35% of India’s population has access to movies when they are released with a ratio of only eight cinema screens per million.
  • The film industry has to choose between whether to double down on increasing infrastructure and putting up more cinema screens, or taking advantage of premium video-on-demand platforms.
‘Sanju’, ‘Padmaavat’, ‘2.0’ and, surprisingly, even ‘Race 3’ were the highest grossing Bollywood films in the year 2018. As a whole, India produces the largest number of films in the world — but a large section of its population doesn’t have access to theatres to cinema screens.

According to the FICCI Frames Report 2018, India only has 8,530 cinema screens in the country compared to over 40,000 in, both, China and the United States. The stark difference may be one the major reasons why India only has the fifth largest film industry in the world worth $1.9 billion, while the United States and China rule the top two spots worth $11.4 billion and $6.6 billion respectively.

Living in tier-I cities like Mumbai and Delhi, it might not be so noticeable but India is one the most under-penetrated markets with an average of only eight screens per million. And, the truth is that the larger proportion of the population lives in tier-II, tier-III and tier-IV cities — without ample access to cinema screens.

That means only around 30-35% of the country’s people have access to catch the biggest films when they hit the box office. The question becomes should India focus on the potential of 23,000 cinema screens that could potentially be put up — or is the culture of cinema dying after the disruption caused by video-on-demand or OTT platforms?

An opportunity for OTT

Sure, there’s space for cinema houses and OTT platforms to co-exist for a while but the doomsday clock has already started to countdown. The number of cinemas in the country has actually fallen from around 12,000 to 9,500.

Putting up new cinema screens requires time, investment and whole lot of infrastructure — and even then it’s a famine or feast kind of deal, where things could honestly go either way. But since mobile penetration has reached new heights and a large section of the population has access to some kind of smartphone, there’s potential for OTT platforms to make their mark.

When you’re talking about OTT platforms, it’s not just about Amazon Prime Video or Netflix — it’s also about the local players like Voot, Hotstart, Viu, Sony LIV, Eros Now, ZEE5, BigFlix and AltBalaji.

The average price of a movie ticket in India around ₹239 rupees, while the a subscription to Amazon Prime Video is a mere ₹129. On Hotstar and Voot, premium content such as new films and international shows are priced a monthly subscription of ₹200.

In fact, subscription revenues for networks this year were favourably impacted by the increased adoption of subscription to OTT platforms according to the FICCI report. The report estimates that by 2020, there will be almost four million digital only consumers that can generate subscription revenues of upto ₹20 billion.

Films like ‘Andhadun’, ‘Gold’, ‘Padmaavat’ and ‘Raazi’ were available on the platforms within weeks of their release.

See also:
#IndependenceDaySpecial: Let’s take a look at India’s cinematic heritage

Lord Of The Screen: How PVR Is Innovating To Stay Ahead

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