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BW Businessworld

BW Box Office: Content Matters

Going forward, to make content commercially viable, there needs to be a focus on realigning the interests of writers, actors, and key technicians

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Over the past few weeks, the Walt Disney Company announced the closure of its Hindi film production business, and Balaji Telefims declared that it would be more careful and selective in producing Indian filmed entertainment content and may even look at a far more ‘precautious’ decision-making process to produce feature films.

A recent article also blamed studio heads for the losses incurred in the Indian film business over the past decade. The promoters/board of directors of these companies that incurred huge losses were also part of the decision-making process. So, why should only the studio heads be blamed? It was a ‘collective decision’. In fact, the promoters/board of directors of entertainment companies can always define the company’s culture and create an environment that is conducive to creating entertainment content that is both creatively and commercially viable.

The effective manner in which Yashraj Films and Dharma Productions are managed clearly illustrates that promoters and studio heads work as a team to drive profitability. Furthermore, both these companies always reward the entire value chain (from content creators, actors, technicians to even the exhibitors) in order to ensure that all their relationships on a long-term basis.

Even in the case of corporates such as The Times Group, there is a clear mandate by its managing director Vineet Jain that every business should optimise profits or limit losses to the extent possible. He does not like any business to lose money, including the filmed entertainment business. Therefore, even in the case of an English feature film, Being Cyrus, Jain pushed for profits. Moreover, Jain created a culture wherein ‘mitigation of risks’ mattered most. It is for this reason alone that the Times Group did not participate in the on-going frenzy to ‘book talent’ at ‘any cost’.

At the current juncture, the Indian film industry is seeing a paradigm shift, which will become much more relevant going forward. This shift is the need for grooming and nurturing effective writers of entertainment content. Besides, with the distribution of content via OTT (over-the-top content), there will be a large demand for effective writers. The Indian population is now demanding good content and with the effective usage of social media, the commercial viability of a feature film is strongly driven by word of mouth.

No longer is it possible to persuade a large theatrical audience if the film content is not viable. For example, if one looks at the net box office figures in India, one would see a decline in the number of films making Rs 100 crore and more. This is while the number of exhibition screens has increased. This clearly illustrates that entertainment-content matters.

In fact, while Mohenjo Daro may not have worked out at the box office, both Hrithik Roshan and Ashutosh Gowarikar are a highly talented team and certainly possess all the skills to deliver a great box office hit. So, the truth is the screenplay matters more than ever before.

Going forward, to make content commercially viable, there needs to be a focus on realigning the interests of writers, actors, and key technicians. Any entertainment-content that is driven by an effective teamwork spirit will in all probability turn out to be a success at the box office and beyond. Such teamwork would certainly also entail aligning the commercial interests of all key participants through profit sharing arrangements.