Ubaid Zargar

India registered 15.7 crore theatre-goers in 2023, 29% more than the previous year

As per a new Ormax report, the country’s theatrical audience has surpassed the pre-pandemic level by 8%.

India’s theatre-going audience has finally surpassed pre-Covid levels. As per a report by media analytics firm Ormax Media, India currently boasts a total of 15.7 crore theatre-goers, marking an increase of about 29% compared to the previous year, where the tally stood at 12.2 crore. The numbers for 2023 also surpass the pre-pandemic figure of 14.6 crore.

However, the cumulative theatre-going audience in India still amounts to just 11.1% of the total population.

The report is based on research conducted in January 2024, among 8,500 Indian audiences across both urban and rural areas.

The numbers also coincide with the boom in in-cinema advertising, as revealed in the latest FICCI-EY report for the Indian media and entertainment sector. As per the report that was unveiled in March 2024, cinema advertising in 2023 saw a significant surge, generating Rs 750 crore, marking a notable 50% increase. This growth is credited to the success of popular movies during the period and the limited availability of platforms targeting affluent audiences.

Hindi cinema also saw its best-ever year, with a gross box office of Rs 5,380 crore, crossing the Rs 5,000 crore mark for the first time. Hindi cinema’s box office share (44%) reached the pre-pandemic level of 44%, up from 33% in 2022, thanks to some blockbuster hits.

While more than 1,000 films were released in the year 2023, just the top 10 films contributed 40% of the year’s total box office. Jawan was the highest-grossing film of 2023, with a gross box office of Rs 734 crore. These numbers are from Ormax's Box Office Report for 2023, which was unveiled in January 2024.

According to the Ormax report, Hindi-language cinema has seen the most significant growth, with its audience rising to 92.2 million (9.2 crore), a 58% increase over 2022. Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada films have witnessed a minor drop in audience shares, while Malayalam cinema witnessed a 19% increase in audience. The table below summarises these language-level changes in India's theatrical universe from 2022 to 2023.

Language-level changes in India's theatrical universe
Language-level changes in India's theatrical universe

As mentioned already, last year’s report revealed that there was a 16% decline in theatrical audience in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic. What changed over the course of the last year?

Sanket Kulkarni, head of business development (Theatrical) at Ormax Media attributes this surge to various factors. "'One of the primary reasons behind this growth is substantial increase in Hindi theatre-goers, which has increased by 58% over last year," he says.

Sanket Kulkarni, head of business development (Theatrical) at Ormax Media
Sanket Kulkarni, head of business development (Theatrical) at Ormax Media

He also points out the impact of post-pandemic inertia coupled with the rise of over-the-top (OTT) platforms. "This dual effect has not only altered audience preferences for content but has also influenced the medium through which they consume entertainment," he explains. As a result, theatre-goers are becoming more discerning in their choices, gravitating towards experiences that offer exceptional value.

Crucially, Kulkarni highlights the industry's role in responding to these evolving dynamics. "In the year immediately following the pandemic, there was palpable uncertainty surrounding the types of content that would resonate with audiences and drive footfall to theatres," he says.

However, by 2023, the industry successfully curated a selection of 'theater-worthy' experiences. Films such as Jawan, Animal, Pathaan, and Gadar 2, all surpassing the 600 crore gross box office mark, emerged as compelling draws for theatregoers, catalysing the increase observed in attendance.

The 15.7 crore viewers contributed to the 94.3 crore footfalls recorded at the domestic box office, resulting in an average of 6.0 films watched per theatre-goer in India across all languages. Nonetheless, there exists considerable diversity in the average number of films viewed by theatre-goers, with variations across different languages, as detailed in the following table:

Diversity in the average number of films viewed by theatre-goers
Diversity in the average number of films viewed by theatre-goers

The average number of films watched in 2023 by a typical theatre-goer is significantly higher among the South Indian languages (except Kannada) vis-a-vis Hindi.

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