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Predicting A Movie’s Run/Success At The Box Office

Today’s movie Box Office has become more unpredictable and uncertain. Since the post-liberalization trend and industry status granted to Indian Cinema in 1998, a large number of production houses and studios have joined the fray; pouring money with promises of fantastic returns, some making a cut while others counting their losses. Yet, there are certain parameters to ascertain movie run at the box office.

  • Firstly, the cast of characters. Celebrity actors come in various shapes and sizes (in terms of a paycheck!). Salman Khan and Aamir Khan command hefty fees for their role. New actors have now come home to roost. Ranveer Singh’s Simbaa has so far earned 400 Crores worldwide. Likewise, Shaahid Kapoor’s Kabir Singh opened its account with 20 Crores collection on day 1.
  • Other parameters like marketing also play a role. Pre-Release marketing is an important indicator of how many people are aware of a film and its subject. We have an example of Udta Punjab a few years back. The movie, despite average reviews, managed to recoup expenses and earn some profit by sheer marketing and the controversy it generated online and in public news channels. Likewise, some other films may make money even with less marketing.
  • Another parameter lies in the subject of the film itself. For example, Article 15, directed by Anubhav Sinha is an example of moderate budget movie earning good in the box office for its treatment of discrimination issues in the Indian police. We also have the iconic Vishal Bharadwaj’s Haidar which is a Kashmiri Shakespearean tale of army occupation. Released in during PM Modi’s rule, this film was a complement to the existing media debate on Kashmir at that time.
  • Along with these (and if we ignore the Friday 13th Jinx), competition from other releases also plays a role in box office collections. This happened with our film The Tashkent Files when it was released two weeks before Marvel’s End Game & 1 week before Kalank was running. Despite stiff competition, The Tashkent Files has managed to earn good revenues and is among the blockbuster hits of 2019, a feat it achieved quietly and assuredly.
  • The positioning of the movie release coinciding with festivals plays the greatest role in the box office run. There’s a good reason why many stars like Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have some of their movies released during the end of Eid festival. They command a loyal following of audiences and this ensures their success.

In the west, increasing applications of data management systems are being employed to predict movie success. For example, a paper on Neural Network Approach to Predicting Movie Box Office Profitability was put up at 15th IEEE International Conference on Machine Learning and Applications. Whether this can be a reliable indicator of box office prediction remains unclear. Films run on sentiments, emotions, and public perceptions. To what extent can such data be reducible to a predictive engine remains to be seen.