Despite making around 2,000 movies a year, India’s film industry just doesn’t rake in enough money

Time for some movie magic.
Time for some movie magic.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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Indian cinema may be churning out blockbusters that set the box office on fire but it will need many more movies such as Salman Khan-starrer Sultan or Akshay Kumar’s Airlift for the industry to make a global mark.

India produces the most number of movies in the world at between 1,500 to 2,000 every year in over 20 languages, according to a new report by Deloitte. This is far above the 700 or so films made in the US and Canada annually.

Wrestling drama Sultan has been India’s biggest blockbuster till date in 2016, raking in Rs300 crore ($45 million), according to, a website that tracks box office earnings. The second in line is Airlift, based on the evacuation of Indians from Kuwait during the 1990 Iraq invasion; it made Rs129 crore. Of the top-10 grossers of 2016, six earned well under Rs90 crore, said.

So, the sorely-needed big hits remain few and far between.

From $2.1 billion currently, India’s gross box office realisations—a measure of revenue—are set to rise to $3.7 billion by 2020, according to the Deloitte report. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 11%. Yet, the industry pales in comparison to that in the US and Canada, for instance, which together rake in around $11 billion in gross box office realisations currently.

“Despite the large number of films and theatre admissions, the industry continues to remain small with respect to other global industries in terms of revenue,” the report said.

Revenues are muted in India due to several factors, such as the relatively lower number of multiplex screens and the slower rise in ticket prices. The massive piracy problem also contributes to the situation, costing the film industry around Rs19,000 crore every year, according to the report.

India lags most other countries when it comes to screen penetration, too, with only around six screens per million people, compared to 23 in China and 126 in the US. While ticket prices at multiplexes are getting steeper, they’re still much lower than the global average.

A complicated tax structure, bureaucratic hurdles, and a whimsical Central Board of Film Certification only worsen matters.

It’s time for a whole new script for Indian cinema.