International box office measuring agency Rentrak Corp has started processing test data from Indian multiplexes as it gears up to launch box office tracking in the territory.

“Our goal is to capture as much data in India as we do in other territories – we have 95% coverage in each one,” said Rentrak senior vice president Jim Zak, speaking on a FICCI Frames panel about business models for the film industry.

Speaking to Screen later on the sidelines of the conference, Zak said Rentrak is in talks with all the major Indian cinema circuits and digital cinema aggregators such as Qube and UFO Moviez.

“An industry that has transparency and competitive visibility has the best opportunity to grow the business,” said Zak. “There are so many films released in this market – producers and exhibitors need to use as many tools as possible to maximise revenues and we can help with that. We also level the playing field as we give smaller exhibitors access to the same data as the big players.”

Rentrak is also in talks with all the MPA member US studios and local studios such as Yash Raj Films and Eros International, who are widely supportive of the new service. “The local studios are already our clients as we track the performance of their films outside of India,” said Zak.

India currently has no standardised box office figures and is an extremely complicated territory to track. Apart from Hollywood films, which account for less than 10% of the market, few films are given a nationwide release. Local films are made in multiple languages, and while Hindi-language films dominate in the north, each of the four southern states have their own film industries and release patterns.

“Play weeks vary across the country and the same film can have eight different distributors depending on the territory,” Zak explained. “It’s a challenge but we’re excited to be here to fill in the gaps.”

The India market is also fragmented – multiplex circuits account for 25% of the total number of around 9,000 screens, with the balance mostly comprising single screen cinemas, many of which are located in the south. Zak said Rentrak hopes to reach the single screens through aggregators such as Qube and UFO Movies.

Although multiplexes have electronic point-of-sale systems, under-reporting remains a huge problem. At another FICCI Frames session on the exhibition business, industry execs said that while the official annual box office is $1.5bn, the unreported box office is probably around $1.3bn, which means India is actually a $2.8bn box office market.

Rentrak, which covers 35 international territories, initially partnered with Majestic Market Research in India, but later decided to set up solo operations. Hyderabad-based Rajkumar Akella has been appointed Rentrak managing director India.