Post-Pandemic impact: Hindi Cinema Sees 6% Surge in Theatres in 2023

According to the latest Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report, for the first time in 5 years, the number of movie screens in India saw a slight increase in 2023.

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Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the emergence of OTT platforms was already leading to a decline in the number of cinema goers, as people increasingly allocated their time and budget to online movie consumption.

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Is the Indian cinema industry on the brink of a revival? As the echoes of the COVID-19 pandemic gradually fade away, a pertinent question emerges: Can the once-thriving theatrical experience reclaim its former glory? The answer seems to be unfolding in the Hindi market, where a remarkable 6% surge in cinema theatres in 5 years heralds a promising shift in the industry's trajectory.

Let's delve deeper into the data and dissect the factors driving this resurgence.

Pre-Pandemic Decline

Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the emergence of OTT platforms was already leading to a decline in the number of cinema goers, as people increasingly allocated their time and budget to online movie consumption.

Pandemic Impact

However, the pandemic besides wreaking havoc across countries, also severely impacted India's film industry. The closure of numerous theaters, especially single-screen venues, was a direct consequence of people transitioning to watching movies online. Approximately 1,500-2,000 theaters shut down nationwide during the pandemic, reflecting the substantial impact on the traditional cinema-going experience.

Theatre

Post-Pandemic Surge

However, with the pandemic receding and normalcy returning, there has been a surge in the number of cinema theatres in the Hindi market.

According to the latest Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report, for the first time in five years, the number of movie screens in India saw a slight increase in 2023. The growth was led by Hindi-speaking markets, followed by the eastern and southern regions.

The year 2023 marked a milestone as the number of screens surpassed the levels of 2018, said the report. Though, less than 100 million Indians visited a cinema hall in 2023.

Regional Disparities

In 2023, the number of cinema screens in Hindi-speaking markets rose by 6%, while those in the east increased by 4%. Conversely, the southern markets witnessed a 2% rise in screens.

The overall number of screens across the country increased by 4% last year, surpassing the total count of 2018.

South India, with 47% of all screens in the country, experienced a notable rise in absolute numbers despite a lower percentage increase.

As of 2023, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala collectively had 4,573 cinema screens, while the rest of the country had 5,169, as per the Ficci-EY report.

India's skewed movie screen expansion primarily favors Delhi NCR, parts of Maharashtra (especially Mumbai), and cities like Bengaluru known for multilingual viewing traditions.

Conversely, states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and the northeast have fewer screens, resulting in limited showcasing and minimal returns for films, particularly small-budget ones.

Factors Contributing to Disparity

Limited availability of theaters in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and the northeast results in restricted exposure and minimal returns for films affecting small-budget productions, which often struggle to secure screenings in these areas due to the scarcity of screens.

Hindi cinema

Additionally, some producers opt against investing significantly in marketing and distribution in these markets due to the lack of infrastructure. As a consequence, many films miss out on potential opportunities for release and audience engagement in these regions.

Factors such as lack of government incentives, audience disconnect in small towns, and expensive real estate contribute to this disparity.

According to the Ficci-EY report, Maharashtra had 1,044 screens, Karnataka had 901, and Andhra Pradesh had 1,103 screens by 2023. In contrast, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha had 149, 83, and 162 screens, respectively.

Real estate prices, especially in smaller towns, pose a significant hindrance to building malls, which are preferred locations for multiplexes. Higher ticket prices in metropolitan areas have led to the production of more films targeting urban audiences, while smaller towns witness sluggish growth in theatrical business.

Multiplex Expansion

The growth of multiplexes in India has been closely tied to the development of malls since the early 2000s. Cities with better infrastructure, policies, tax incentives, and consumer appetite have witnessed rapid growth in this sector. However, there is now a saturation point in major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru.

However, multiplex chains are exploring opportunities in untapped markets and have plans for expansion in the coming years. PVR Inox Ltd, for instance, aims to add eight to nine new cities to its portfolio every quarter while awaiting retail expansion in several markets.

PVR

Promising Signs for Theatrical Viewing

The Indian cinema industry’s growth in the Hindi markets is a promising sign for the future of theatrical viewing. As the industry navigates the challenges of real estate and strives for a more equitable distribution of screens, the potential for further expansion and diversification of content remains vast.

The 6% surge in cinema theatres in the Hindi markets is a significant development for the Indian film industry, reflecting a broader trend of recovery and growth.

Cinema Theatres Indian Cinema COVID-19 pandemic