Centralized Box Office Data Collection : Why We Need It

India, despite being the largest producer and consumer of movies, does not have a centralized box office system. In fact, it is remarkably opaque. And yet in an extremely diverse, complex and yet potent market such as India, the need for such a system cannot be understated.

Box office data is not only opaque, it is in some cases misused and abused. It’s a misnomer that inflating or manipulating box office numbers could benefit a film company’s brand value or bottom line.

Instead, accurate data can influence the way we make content as well as how we market and monetize it, besides boosting revenue opportunities for the exhibition sector.

Empirical analysis of box office data will translate into better content that increases revenues across all sectors of the movie business. As a result, transparency will have a long-term positive impact on the entire film industry.

Current Methods of Box Office Reporting

Unfortunately there are numerous sources publishing conflicting box office data. Similarly, the lack of data standardization between the north and south of India makes it hard to compare relevant facts and figures. Typically, Bollywood uses the net box office collections (NBOC), while in the south, public numbers usually reflect the distributor’s share as the film’s revenue. Both these methods are inconsistent with global standards – the gross box office collections (GBOC).


Benefits of a Centralized Box Office Measurement

There are many things that a credible and authentic centralized box office measurement can do for a film and the industry:

  1. Boosting Releases: With the development of a centralized box office data collection system, filmmakers can make better decisions regarding a film’s release. This includes choosing a release date that offers the biggest potential for returns as well as decisions regarding the marketing strategy for the release of a film.
  2. Fueling Investments and propelling Institutional funding to movie business: Accurate data and analytics will help film investors, financiers and financial institutions to better evaluate the investment proposition in various sectors of the movie business including Production, Distribution and Exhibition.
  1. Assessing Potential Growth Areas: Analytics can assess things such as the financial impact of screen density, footfall trends, and geographies that had success with a certain type of film, language, genre, or actor. This can maximize a film’s release potential.
  1. Optimizing Regional Opportunities: In a country as diverse as India, data is crucial for successfully releasing a film across different regions. Data breaks down customer acquisition cost by state, city or location so film marketers can produce detailed, effective marketing strategies.
  1. Propelling Pan-India Content: Adding to this, accurate data collection can further promote content that has pan-India appeal. As a result, the success of releases like Baahubali , will become more common.
  1. Fueling growth of screen advertising and ancillary revenues for Cinemas: When cinemas provide data that lacks context, it does not accurately capture their market share or a film’s market share. As a result, cinema as an advertising medium has been hugely underperforming in India. Without consolidated data, cinemas are unable to provide thorough insights, nor are they able to demonstrate ROI to potential advertisers. Credible audience data will help cinemas to optimize their screen advertising revenues. Consolidated and accurate data serves as credible movie currency to screen advertisers in India. 
  1. Influencing Policy Decisions: Laying out accurate numbers with relevant insights can hugely influence and accelerate policies that have a direct impact on the film industry, such as clearance timings and regulations related to building a new cinemas. A centralized box office measurement service can bring clarity to issues such as low screen density.


Big Data: Co-operation Equals Success

In order for data collection to achieve the three norms of consistency, accuracy and transparency, co-operation from all stakeholders is imperative. From producers to ticketing agencies to distributors, everyone should be on board. Producers should support and encourage accurate reporting for their films. Further, cinemas can take the initiative to self-report. Single screen cinemas and multiplexes don’t need to wait for a push from producers to get involved in data collection. Rather, they can voluntarily tie up with comScore.

ComScore – India (formerly Rentrak) is the global leader for box office measurement. With a presence in 75 countries, comScore is collecting more than 95% of the global box office data from more than 1,25,000 theaters. This information gives stakeholders accurate information every day. In turn, they can adjust marketing decisions evolve superior strategies, in real time in order to improve returns.

If cinemas continue to provide regular data, we will have accurate analysis, which will help realize the true potential of the Indian movie industry. It’s important to remember, knowledge is power, and data is knowledge. The more you know about your product and your audience, the more you are likely to achieve greater success.

~ Rajkumar Akella is the Managing Director, Theatrical – India, of comScore Inc., (formerly Rentrak) , the global leader in movie box office measurement. Rajkumar has been working with various stakeholders of the Indian movie industry to achieve accuracy & transparency in box office measurement with significant success. He also serves as an executive member of the Governing Council of the Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce (TFCC)’s Anti-Video Piracy Cell (AVPC), since 2005. In 2011, he was elected as the honorary chairman of AVPC. He has been instrumental in driving several breakthrough IPR and content protection initiatives, including the setup of TIPCU (Telangana Intellectual Property Crime Unit) in 2016, launched by K.T.Rama Rao, Hon’ble IT minister, Govt of Telangana, Richard Rahul Verma, former U.S. Ambassador to India and the Motion Picture Association India office. Regarded as a pioneering initiative, TIPCU has been shaping anti-piracy enforcement efforts in India ever since. Rajkumar Akella was presented the prestigious Motion Picture Association (MPA) Asia Pacific Copyright Educator (A.C.E) Award in 2016 in recognition  of his significant contribution to improving the ability for filmmakers and distributors in India to best protect their creative work in the digital ecosystem.

Industry Piracy

Maharashtra’s Big Push to Eliminate Piracy

n 2016, Maharashtra saw a massive growth in cyber crimes. The government responded by creating the Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit (MCDCU) and becoming the first state to launch a cyber police station in every district. A year later, the Maharashtra Intellectual Property Crime Unit (MIPCU) was created to specifically address intellectual property crimes. As more of our personal, business, and governmental affairs go digital, the more critical it is that we have a robust Digital Crimes Unit.


Maharashtra Cyber Security Project

The central government is committed to taking cybercrime seriously, but this needs to be implemented at a state level. As a result, the government of Maharashtra aimed to uphold this aspect of the law by creating the Maharashtra Cyber Security Project. In addition to creating cyber police stations in every district, the Maharashtra Cyber Project has the objective of creating cybercrime investigation labs, training all police officers to identify a cybercrime, and also create awareness among citizens of Maharashtra.


What is a Cyber Crime?

Cyber-crimes cover a broad spectrum of criminal activity that occurs online including: website hacking, cyber stalking, cyber pornography, software piracy, and online fraud. For the entertainment industry, the biggest cyber-crime – and one we are actively fighting every day – is that of online piracy.


Maharashtra Intellectual Property Crime Unit (MIPCU)

The Film & Television Producers Guild of India and the Motion Pictures Association of America – India (MPA) played a huge part in the creation of MIPCU. The two met with Maharashtra’s Chief Minister, and as a result the state government agreed to the formation of MIPCU. We needed this unit because while we already had anti-piracy laws in place, there was no proper machinery to implement them. With the MIPCU we have a team in place with the skillset, know-how, and resources to tackle piracy crimes effectively.


Taking Down Sites Pirating Content

One of the biggest responsibilities the Digital Crime Unit has is to take down websites that offer pirated movies, music and other digital content.


Within a month of setting up the Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit in August 2017, we identified 9000 websites where illegal content was being uploaded and distributed. Later, we shortlisted 1,300 sites to take legal action against.


Since April 2018, we have suspended 29 pirate websites. These sites were illegally distributing many Bollywood songs and movies. Thanks to the Digital Crime Unit these sites are no longer accessible anywhere in the world. These sites had tens of millions of viewers each month. By our estimates, taking these sites down will result an additional Rs. 8 crore revenue per month for the film industry by shifting users of these sites to official platforms. It’s important to recognize that by doing this, we will not only be protecting the film industry’s revenue, but also adding to taxable revenues which will benefit all citizens of Maharashtra.


Game of Thrones Leakage

One of the most notable crackdowns was that of Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 4 which leaked online two days prior to its US release. Star India and Novi Digital filed the complaint. With the collective efforts of Cyber & PAW, Government of Maharashtra, and the office of DCP (Cyber), BKC, Mumbai, we were able to gather and analyze information and material and make four arrests.


By making these arrests we are able to instill confidence in the Indian and international entertainment industry. Foreign production houses looking to collaborate with Indian companies for content creation need to know that they’re creative property will be protected. It also sends a clear message across industries that those who violate the law will pay the price.



The Continued Fight Against Online Piracy

Prior to the creation of these special units, individual producers would have to fight online piracy through John Doe court orders. As a result, they might be able to block their own content from appearing on some of these websites, but often it was a “too little too late” situation as far as revenues were concerned. Now, the Digital Crime Unit is able to expedite the process as well as proactively fight digital crime even before a complaint is filed.


If other states follow suit in creating their own digital cells, we could more effectively tackle this vast problem. With the support of the central and state government, the entertainment industry, and other stakeholders such as MPA, we will to continue the fight against illegal digital distribution of content.



Bollywood Industry Interview

Adapt, Evolve, Engage : Strategies For Success

It’s not easy to become the number one studio in India, and it’s even harder to hold onto to that position. CreativeFirst sat down with Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios, India, to find out what it took to make it happen, and how he plans to keep the studio at the top.


It used to be a filmmaker’s goal to reach the 100 crore club, but now the bar has been set to the 1000 crore club. In your opinion, what has made is possible for a film to reach this height?

Clearly the bar needs to be a 1000 crore worldwide revenue. We just released Sanju, and it’s well on its way to create a new benchmark at the box office. Baahubali’s box office numbers has demonstrated that we need to look at films that cater to a pan-India market. As an industry, our goal should be to produce at least five or six 1000-crore films every year.

Two factors make it possible. It all starts with the pitch of the content. You have to make films that will appeal to a pan-India sensibility. What I believe will really move the needle in the future is marketing and focus on emerging markets such as China and Saudi Arabia. In China, we’ve already experienced success. A lot of Chinese distributors are extremely interested in Sanju. So I know we will be releasing there. Saudi is another big opportunity since the government has started the process to allow multiplexes to open. There’s a lot of groundwork being done by various companies that are keen to set up exhibition there. I believe that by 2020, Saudi Arabia alone can contribute as much as the entire Middle East does today. Indian films work there because they do have cultural similarities and connect with the audiences there.

Digital is another opportunity for films – and we need to view it that way: as an opportunity not a threat. We know the business model is changing. For revenues, we have largely been reliant on cable, satellite and theatrical. As the digital environment matures and monetization possibilities emerge, it will become an additional revenue source for films, and ultimately good for the financial health of the industry.


Sanju has been a smashing success like several other Indian biopics in the past. Given the past trend, and also the team on Sanju, how confident were you about its success? And did you expect it to perform the way it did?

Fox Star Studios has emerged to be the number one studio in the country and Sanju is the number one film of 2018 so far. The number one film from the number one studio is a nice place to be. It’s a great validation of the strategy we’ve adopted so far.

Lately, biopics have been doing well. Fox Star Studios has released several biopics like Neerja, Dhoni and now Sanju.

With Sanju we knew Rajkumar Hirani is a hugely celebrated director, storyteller and master craftsmen. Further, we knew that this was a film that would have a massive connect with audiences. But to be honest, did I know this film would do 300 crores? The honest answer is no. What’s amazed us is more than that: it’s the massive love the film has got, which does of course translate into numbers. It’s already the fifth largest Bollywood film ever, and we know we’re going to be in cinemas for another three or four weeks, so I’m aiming for it to become the third biggest Bollywood film ever. What makes it even more spectacular is that the film did not release on a festival or holiday weekend; we released the film during a normal period with a U/A rating.


Are these extraordinary box office numbers encouraging filmmakers to take bigger financial risks, investing more money in a single film to get greater returns?

I think yes and no. Given the success of Baahubali and the realization that we need to make pan-India films means yes, of course we are looking at larger subjects to make bigger films. But, equally we believe the market is segmented and there is an opportunity to create content for different segments that exist within the multiplex and single screen audiences.


Are we seeing higher box office numbers across the board or only on the upper limits (i.e. are small budget films getting more visibility/hitting more screens, thus having higher returns than perhaps they would have 5 years ago?)

Yes, the environment is getting more competitive with digital content and platforms emerging. However, I think all of that is good because it’s another revenue stream to consider, and it puts the pressure back on filmmakers to create better content.

To get huge numbers pan-India, you have to show the audience something they haven’t seen before. Traditionally, we relied on an actor, but Baahubali showed us that a big idea is as good if not better than a big actor. When you look at Hollywood, they’ve had huge success even with animation whereas in India, we haven’t seen a successful animation film yet. Now that we are competing with the digital domain, the story has to have something bigger to attract the audience to theatres. If you’re trying to make a big visual spectacle, you’ll need more than the average film’s budget.


Does the arrival of OTT platforms threaten the success of future box office collections?

If you go by FICCI data, it suggests the industry’s had minimal growth in the last few years. The good news is 2018 has started out really strong and I haven’t seen a year like this in a long time. The diversity of content that’s gone out has helped that. We had Sanju now, and then a few months back Baaghi 2 which is a completely different film. Diverse content is working at the theatres and that’s a good sign. The jury is still out about this year’s growth, but we are off to a great start.

We all need to get used to the fact that the audience wants to see content across multiple screens. If you get fixated on this idea that theatre is the only place where people want to see content, then there’s going to be a problem. People want to see content on the go as well as in the theatres. I genuinely believe these two things will coexist. It’s not going to be one against the other.


The localised version of Deadpool 2 went to prove that investing in localising content can pay off. Do you see this becoming a trend? How does it affect/change the way a studio considers the viability of an international film in the Indian market?

I am very confident that Hollywood films are really going to grow in the Indian market. If you look at the last 5-10 years, an entire generation has been watching it through television. As they become adults and have disposable incomes you know there will be a natural inclination to see Hollywood content. Deadpool 2 is a great example of how we can maximize monetization: Localizing content to reach various regions in the country is absolutely critical. With this particular character, there was a real opportunity to leverage the character across languages with a well-known actor, Ranveer Singh. I don’t necessarily think that’s always important, but when there is a really great fit like this particular example, that’s where the synergy happens.


The last few years have seen a change in the tide for Fox Star India; the last few films have performed outstandingly well. Is this because of a shift in the type of content, a change in audience preferences or a change in marketing and communication? Or is it a combination of it all?

I think the last two years have been very significant. Four years ago, we were consistently the number two studio. We adopted a three-pronged strategy to become the number one studio in the country. Firstly, our big focus is on home productions. It is critical to do more home productions so we can control the value chain – from creative writing to release of the film, development of a script bank and working with the best people and partners. We all know making a film is not easy. Development is hard work, but the thing that gives me great confidence is that we have a script bank and readymade material we can pull out. Films like Jolly LL.B and Neerja are testimony to that development. We have an exciting line up for the next fifteen months with twelve or thirteen films, four of which are home productions. From a home production standpoint, basically, we are doing an Indian adaptation of Fault in Our Stars which is titled Kissi and Mani. We’re also working on Rajkumar’s next film, India’s Most Wanted. We’re doing another book adaptation, The Zoya Factor with Sonam and Dulquer. We’ve just finished shoot on a really interesting comedy film with Kunal Khemu. That’s all to say, if you want to be a dominant, number one studio, you have to create various kinds of content.

Secondly, we need to be working with the best creative production houses in the country. We are consistently working with Dharma for the last four years. Subsequently, we started working with Sajid Nadiadwala and we had these two big hits (Judwaa 2 and Baaghi 2) and now we’re working on his next two films, Houseful 4 and Nitesh Tiwari’s next film.

 Thirdly, marketing and distribution strategies need to evolve with digital disruption.  We’re clearly seeing that the old ways of marketing are no longer relevant. We are continuously innovating and investing in digital marketing tools. Our goal is to understand digital consumers better and map out the consumer journey and profile so that we can reach them more cost effectively and with greater impact through various digital platforms. We have a consumer insight and analytics department that is crucial for this. I should know which consumers are a part of which segment. If I want to target someone through digital marketing, it’s important to know the kind of films the person likes, so I can give him content he is interested in. This results in better conversion rates.


A lot of young, independent studios and creative outfits are popping up. What would be your advice for them on their way forward?

I wouldn’t say a lot of independent studios are coming up, but there are a lot of independent production houses coming up. There is a distinct difference. My view is that in a couple of years, there will be 3-4 studios and everyone else will be a creative production house. I think consolidation is good because it allows people to do what they do best. Production houses will be left to do what they do best, and that’s the creative process. They won’t have to worry about things like marketing and distribution.


Are there any steps individual filmmakers should take to be part of the efforts for better content protection?

This is a huge issue, as we know. MPA has done some great work, but piracy remains a huge problem and efforts need to be taken by the entire industry, with everyone working towards eradicating it. More importantly, it needs massive government support. To share an example of Sanju: we took a John Doe order which then got ISPs under pressure to ensure they block any film. But why should it be an individual film effort? The Government of India should provide continuous protection for all content and intellectual property. I don’t think it’s a filmmaker’s individual responsibility, but that of the government, film associations and tech companies like Google and Facebook. The Tamil Nadu and Telugu industries have demonstrated that, as an industry we need to come together for effective content protection. They’ve come together far better than the Hindi film industry.


How is the Digital Crime Unit, Maharashtra Cyber working for Star?

The Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit has proved to be a success story for all stakeholders involved. The unit has devised 6 enforcement actions which create deterrents and throttle the pirate revenue chain. We see this initiative as the first step in establishing a cooperative model between government and industry, that encourages sharing of resources, streamlines investigative operations and enhances the efficacy of enforcement actions.

Blog Industry Interview

Rise Of The Big Screen

Over the last few years, digital content platforms have drastically changed the media and entertainment industry landscape. Simultaneously, box offices for both local and Hollywood releases in India are hitting new highs, signaling that despite a shift in content consumption habits, there is still scope for theatre viewership growth. Creative First caught up with Vivek Krishnani – Managing Director, Sony Pictures India to talk about some of the changes in the industry and audience behavior, and what production companies can do to ensure the big screen continues to rise.


When an international film releases in India, how necessary are local marketing plans?

It’s very important to connect with the local market of the audience where you are going to be showcasing the film. First, marketing efforts need to be focused in areas where people are consuming content and in their local language. We launched the Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer in ten languages even though the film was only released in four Indian languages. There are people who are sitting on the fence about whether or not they should go to the cinema to watch the film, so we took this opportunity to engage them in their most comfortable language. Seeing the trailer in one’s local language excites people to watch the film in the language of their choice. Those audiences turned up at the theatres and it worked out incredibly well for us. Also, having a big star like Tiger Shroff to dub for the Hindi version of the film got us a fantastic response.


So is it important to localize a marketing plan?

If an international film can get 20% of its overall box office from India, then of course, the way you position the film in India matters.


What are the biggest challenges to release an international film in India?

We are very under-screened as a country. We have about nine screens per million whereas the US has 120 screens per million, and China has about 30-35 screens per million. Screen growth has a direct impact on box office numbers in a country.


Do you have any example of a market where local stakeholders have helped build the industry?

Andhra has the highest screen density in India. This is because of the seriousness and focus that the state government has in facilitating growth in the industry. They have a smoother set up and facilitation of people who work in documentation for investment in cinema infrastructure. If you enable that, people will set up more cinemas.

It becomes a hindrance and the tax structures are self-defeating. Like for example, the new taxation, MBDT and LBT. They become barriers for investment as they create uncertainty. It needs to be more seamless and easy in terms of governance and regulation for people to set up more theatres so more people can visit them and start consuming films.


What can be done to change this?

It’s an expensive proposition to build a cinema, but if there is support from the government to do it in a cost-efficient manner, more screens will come up and in turn bring more people to the theatre. To do this also requires support from the distributors. For instance, when Cinepolis recently opened in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand the collections for our last film from that market almost doubled. This was because of the presence of a theatre offering a good viewing experience which was lacking earlier. We need that kind of growth across India. Great content backed by great infrastructure will help grow the cinema business in India.


“Good content” seems to be the buzzword right now. From a business standpoint, what do you think needs to be done to find good stories and make good content?

There is no secret to good content; you need to identify stories that connect with audiences. One way is by staying in tune with subject matters that are part of discussion in today’s day in age, particularly things that have not been showcased before but are stories people want to hear. A story has to be strong enough to drive people into theatres. Something that has an emotional connect, human insight, something that’s visually spectacular, or something that’s never been seen before: these are things that get people to the theatres. Films used to be more formulaic – a revenge story or boy-meets-girl etc. However, now stories need to be less formulaic because people have more options of how and where they are going to spend their money and time. Our job is to find content that is compelling enough to get people to come to the theatre and buy a movie ticket and feel they’re getting value for their money.


I think you’re more likely to create good content if:

  1. you are able to identify what is the story you want to say and
  2. you invest in good story writers and screenplay writers because those are the people who give you a blueprint for what will eventually show up on celluloid.


Finding good content is a constant process. We have a creative development team that does this 24/7. A good idea can come from anywhere; it’s up to you what you want to prioritize and invest in.


Any interesting stories you can share with us?

We just acquired rights of Indian cricketer Jhulan Goswami. She is the highest wicket taker in Women’s One Day International Cricket and the first bowler to take 200 wickets in WODIs.  This is just the tip of the iceberg; there are so many other interesting aspects of her life that make it a story that needs to be told.


Female-driven films are becoming more popular than they were five years ago. Are producers more proactively seeking out those stories?

I typically don’t differentiate between female-driven stories and male-driven stories. A good story is a good story. We’ve seen films like Kahaani, Tanu weds Manu, English Vinglish, NH10 and now Raazi and Hichki – these are films that people want to watch and stories they want to hear. It’s a good story that needs to be told and it shouldn’t really matter whether it’s a female or a male protagonist.


Now that most big international films do make it to the big screen in India, is there any reason to buy the rights of a foreign film to make an Indian version?

At Sony, international films from many countries which gives us the benefit of looking not only at English content, but content across a variety of foreign languages. This enables us to leverage the rich content heritage in each market and cross-localize it not just as a foreign film being remade into an Indian film, but also an Indian film being remade into a foreign film. Our recent film, 102 Not Out is a great piece of content that can be replicated in any market in the world. There is an opportunity for cross-pollination of ideas and stories as long as the content is viable in that market.


What is the scope for the kids & youth genre?

We brought Spider-Man back into college because we believed that there is a certain aspirational value amongst younger audiences to identify the superhero as one of them. I think that really worked with Spiderman. Kids and youth are definitely an important demographic because they have purchasing power and they drive purchasing decisions within the family. If filmmakers find a balance where the film caters to both parents and kids, we will definitely see this pie grow. Peter Rabbit, which is a combination of live action and animation, did really well in India because it had elements that both kids and adults can enjoy.Not to mention, you get to sell four tickets instead of two.



  1. The 2nd “question” was framed as a statement because he’s already been asked that same thing above; this was just a way to bring the audience to a concise statement which he said. Either we reframe it as a statement rather than a redundant question or we just add the final sentence (If an international film can get 20%…” to the answer for 1. It doesn’t make sense to ask essentially the same question twice.
  1. The word government is not supposed to be capitalized because it is not a proper noun. If we say the Government of India we will capitalize it.