Only eight out of the approximately 230 Hindi films released in 2016 surpassed the glorified Rs 100 crore ($14.5 million) club in India, giving the industry only a total tally of around Rs 2,700 crore, according to industry insiders.
This, in a year when the central government's demonetisation move in early November disturbed the projected earnings for some movies, when piracy ate into some films' business and when some producers got into a tussle with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Barring Shah Rukh Khan, whose "Fan" did not prove to be like most of the superstar's box office wonders, Bollywood's other A-listers, including Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar, had a bright year with their films raking in the moolah and making it to the Rs 100 crore club. Salman's "Dangal" was reportedly the top grosser of the year with earnings of Rs 300 crore.
There is no centralised agency to record Bollywood's box office numbers. But going by film trade experts and industry sources, Salman registered good returns with "Sultan", Akshay won the audiences' hearts with "Airlift", "Housefull 3" and "Rustom", and Aamir's "Dangal" Christmas release added to the festive season's celebratory mood.
While "Udta Punjab" failed to light up the box office as expected after it got into a controversy when its makers fought against CBFC over extensive cuts made by them over showcasing "explicit language and drug consumption" in the film, the "Great Grand Masti" sex comedy fell prey to piracy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation move also spelt hard luck for Bollywood as movie buffs were reluctant to visit theatres -- and were instead increasing "footfalls" at queues outside banks. Some single screen theatres also shut down nationwide after the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes were scrapped.
"It has been a bad year. Overall, I feel if the content is not good, then why will people spend money unnecessarily? Obviously, people will not go to theatres if you don't give them good content. With 'Dangal', the content is powerful. So, people are watching it," trade analyst Vinod Mirani told IANS.
Hopes were high from movies like "Wazir", "Fitoor", "Fan", "Azhar", "Te3n", "Mohenjo Daro", "A Flying Jatt", "Baar Baar Dekho", "Mirzya", "Rock On!! 2" and "Befikre", which had distinctive story lines, but they failed to elicit the expected response.
"The year 2016 was average in terms of business as some Bollywood movies failed badly. A few regional movies did extremely well and one example is the Marathi film 'Sairat'. Also, film piracy took a big chunk of business and some movies suffered a lot," said Amit Sharma, Managing Director, Miraj Cinemas.
Manoj Desai, Executive Director of Gaiety Galaxy and Maratha Mandir Cinema, echoed this. "It's just been an average year, nothing great. The major issue this year was that due to demonetisation, there was a major cash crunch and films suffered," Desai told IANS.
According to numbers estimated by trade insiders, while 1.46 billion people went to see Bollywood films released in 2009, the number came down to 1.18 billion in 2016.
Respite was brought in by the eight movies that crossed the Rs 100 crore mark. These include "Airlift" (Rs 125 crore), "Rustom" (Rs 122 crore), "Housefull 3" (Rs 107 crore), "Sultan" (Rs 300 crore), "M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story" (Rs 120 crore), "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" (Rs 112 crore), "Shivaay" (Rs 100 crore) and "Dangal" (Rs 155.53 crore in five days since its release on December 23).
Devang Sampat, Director -- Strategic Initiatives, Cinepolis India, said despite all the hurdles, his cinema chain was able to witness a growth of 20 per cent in footfalls as compared to the previous year.
"With the announcement of demonetisation, we also took immediate measures to welcome the move to keep ourselves aligned with the government's cashless economy concept. Cinepolis came out with exciting offers on cashless transaction for the movie lovers which gave a positive spin to all the digital transactions," he said.
However, despite the "average" response at the box office, 2016 is ending on a positive note with "Dangal" increasing the footfalls at cinemas while overcoming demonetisation problems.
"After a very long time, the shows are going houseful, all thanks to 'Dangal'. We are expecting more than Rs 250 crore," film expert Rajesh Thadani said.
Now all eyes are on films releasing in 2017, as the slate looks fascinating with Shah Rukh starrer "Raees" and "Kaabil", which will bring back the hit father-son duo Rakesh Roshan and Hrithik Roshan together, releasing in January.
In a nutshell:
* Overall, an "average" response for films released in 2016.
* Apart from Shah Rukh Khan, other bigwigs had the star power and entertained the audience.
* Only eight of the approximately 230 Hindi films were Rs 100 crore grossers.
* The demonetisation move and piracy took a toll on movies.
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