Without reliable data collation, the details of the Indian box office can be murky. Udita Jhunjhunwala reports

When Bollywood studios and distributors provide gross figures on Monday mornings, sceptics wonder how accurate the numbers are given that India is a market geared towards opening-weekend blitzkrieg and does not have an autonomous data collection and tracking agency.

Certain trade magazines engage in their own method of data collection, but concerns about their accuracy are justified. Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO of UTV Motion Pictures, says: “With no real-time box-office data, we’re hampered by a lack of accurate information. A trade consensus usually emerges, but there’s a deviation of 5%-7% on the figures. Until national multiplex chains install systems like Rentrak, we won’t have real-time multiplex data.”

Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director of PVR, a producer, distributor and leading multiplex chain, says: “As distributors, we agree that an independent data collection source would be useful. Multiplexes do have computerised ticketing and everyone has the same software. We do report genuine figures. Single screens also report to the distributors.

“But very few of the single screens play [non-Bollywood] films. In the case of single screens, we have to rely on the producer to provide that number.”

On Bollywood numbers, Anil Arjun, CEO of Reliance MediaWorks, adds: “For Bollywood movies, the box-office collection details are based either on reports compiled by the trade media from the various exhibitors or the information issued by the distributors themselves.”

Hollywood studios submit weekly box-office estimates to the Cinematographers Rental Society (KRS) which compiles them — and as members of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), they share the collections on a weekly basis as per studio guidelines. Since independent releases are minimal, their collections are easier to monitor.