I read an article which claimed that 1994’s all-time blockbuster Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! had about 74 million footfalls while 2016’s Dangal had 37 million footfalls. That’s almost half. In 1994 India’s population was 945 million as against 134 million in 2016. Globally Dangal made ₹2000 crore while Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! crossed ₹125 crores.
While the global box office has really boosted figures, the domestic ones have been supersized by the multiplex. In the 1980s the newspaper cost around ₹1 and today it is ₹5-7. A ₹10 magazine is ₹100+ today. A bar of chocolate was ₹2-3 and today you can get one for ₹20-30. I remember going for a balcony show in a cinema hall for ₹4, but today it could be anywhere from ₹300 to ₹1000 plus. While many items have seen a 10-20 fold increase, the cinema ticket has increased at least a 100 fold.
That’s thanks to the multiplex and also extra rates for 3D. But time was when multiplexes were great when they were new and were a novelty. The seats, the digital screens and sounds, the five star look and feel. But I think that charm has gone and we have taken it for granted.
Pre-pandemic there were many problems which were festering. For one, as I mentioned, they are too expensive. And it’s not just the ticket price, but the food too. In the 2000s, I read that it was only the popcorn business that saved the industry. It does appear like that. Multiplexes seem to make most of their margins from food and adding that going to the multiplex actually costs many thousands for a family. The food is overpriced and oftentimes bad quality food. Once I saw a huge samosa and wondered how I was going to finish it and I was told I had to take a minimum too. The food is supersized and they will try to empty your pockets as much as possible. Ten years back, I bought a ₹160 tea and found it was a badly mixed milk powder with a tea bag. I asked for a fresh cup or a refund and the seller refused. I threw it in the dustbin in front of him and he merely shrugged his shoulders. This is the kind of arrogance that makes people not want to visit and not lament the decline of the multiplex.
Once the security didn’t even allow a milk bottle for a toddler, they are that ruthless.
Maybe their first line of business is not films and food but giving diabetes. Fizzy drinks are served in 400/500 ml cups and sometimes only half-litre cups are available. What are the ethics of giving half a litre of a carbonated drink to a small child when your machine could easily dish out a 100ml cup?
I think this rich arrogant multiplex habit got broken during the pandemic. Commuting is another problem where people don’t want to get out that often. WFH stands for Watch From Home.
Enough has been said about the Streaming space and how it has taken over the global mindspace. Even if Netflix collapses, there are hundreds of streaming services in the world which will take its place.
In any case Bollywood had become out of touch with the populace with its far Left ideology and blindly aping American progressivism. Hollywood itself has gone woke and is struggling. Nationalism and pride for one’s religion and culture is the new thing. A lot of people became disillusioned after the Sushant Singh Rajput death and the nepotism debate that followed. In fact I read an article where the Marathi film Sairat could have made ₹100s of crores but multiplexes refused to increase the number of shows even though they would have all gone housefull.
People point to Pathaan, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. There was a Pathaan blitzkrieg, a record number of screens were booked and were given a long run, high publicity and hype. You cannot do that for every movie. The overall trend is downward.
To me a visit to the multiplex is unappealing. The prices. The commute. The security checks to get in. The overpriced bad food. First Day First Show used to be a thing once upon a time. Nowadays most of us can wait for the Streaming release, which usually doesn’t take much time.
Plus I have many bad experiences too. One IMAX hall is so badly designed that you can see multiple heads on the screen. That’s for a ₹1000+ rupee ticket. Once they shut the movie before the multiple MCU mid and end credit scenes.
I remember once I saw Tron Legacy. There was a technical glitch and they did not show us scenes before the climax. After much fighting and shouting, they showed those scenes and then just stopped before the climax, saying you already saw the climax. After that the multiplex staff started pushing the viewers. I have never seen such arrogance in any cinema hall in my life.
I visited that mall after 5-6 years. The mall had shut down and resembled a haunted house. The multiplex chain went out of business and the owner went bankrupt. A sign of things to come? A symbol of the future? Karma? Will that be the fate of most of the malls and multiplexes in the post-Covid world? Or will they make a miraculous comeback? Who knows!