May 19, 2010

Tool to track Bolly releases

Calcutta, May 19: Between Kites and Raavan, which will open bigger at the box office? Will a political film like Raajneeti start better in Mumbai or in Delhi? Is Kites only wooing young audiences or also older viewers?

Now Bollywood has the luxury of having access to these answers and more. The world’s largest film industry finally has a weekly tracking tool — a norm in Hollywood for decades. With the opening weekend now making or breaking a Hindi film, understanding the buzz around a forthcoming movie can come in handy.

Cinematix, the weekly tracking tool launched by the Mumbai-based media research and consulting firm Ormax Media, tracks Bollywood films around six weeks prior to their release date till the day they open.

Awareness and interest levels around a film are being gauged by interviewing moviegoers in the 15-34 age group. Currently being conducted across three cities — Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad — the survey throws up many other telling data that, if available to moviemakers in advance, can help them make adjustments in their marketing and promotion campaign.

“Pre-release awareness and intention to watch are the factors affecting the opening weekend collections of a film,” Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of Ormax Media, told The Telegraph. “On the basis of the response, you may choose to take a relook at your media and creative strategies during the pre-launch phase.”

For example, the Shahid Kapur-starrer Badmaash Company, which arrived on May 7, had only a 31 per cent “intention to watch” in its release week and the not-so-great opening figures at the box office bear testimony to the accuracy of the survey.

Compare that with Kites (releasing May 21), which 71 per cent of the respondents intend to watch, according to figures collated till May 14. That figure will go up further this week and thus Cinematix predicts a historic opening for the Hrithik Roshan-Barbara Mori romance.

Like in Hollywood, producers will have to subscribe to the weekly data from the survey. They will get a detailed report every Monday with age, gender and city-wise analyses of their movies.

“I think it’s an interesting concept and can be useful for filmmakers like us,” says Kites director Anurag Basu. “But the survey has to be done in more cities to get an idea of the pan-Indian buzz of a film.”

Calcutta and Hyderabad will be added to Cinematix’s survey area in the next couple of months. “The five cities account for almost 75 per cent of the box-office collections and so the results will give a fair idea of the nationwide buzz,” says Ormax CEO Kapoor.

The only previous attempt in Bollywood to understand the pre-release mindset of audiences has been through preview screenings.

But that has been largely to re-edit the film according to exit interviews of handpicked viewers. 3 Idiots, for instance, was shown to many preview audiences in quite a few Indian cities before it actually released on December 25 last year.

Hollywood does both — hold preview screenings and track the buzz. Satrajit Das, associate manager of market research firm Nielsen Bases, says: “Our US-based parent company does these surveys regularly and they always present interesting data for Hollywood studios to work upon. It’s good that Bollywood is finally taking a leaf out of their book and approaching releases methodically.”

What’s intriguing, however, is not the broad result that the tracking tool is throwing up but the small details it is coming up with.

For example, cinegoers in Delhi are not that keen to catch Raajneeti despite the buzz about it being loosely based on Sonia Gandhi’s political career. Katrina Kaif may want to keep track of that.