Want to take your parents for a film? Want to enjoy a family outing at the movies? If you are a typical upper-middle or middle class Indian family, chances are your plans will be nipped in the bud. Purely because there won’t be a film running in the theaters that your family can enjoy together.
No, I’m not talking of cliches like ‘clean entertainment’ and ‘no vulgarity’ here. I’m purely talking of taste and preference. How many films in 2011 actually had content (irrespective of good or bad) that appealed to the ‘family’ at large?
Even after taking enough liberties with the definition of a ‘family film’, my list looks fairly thin: Yamla Pagla Deewana, Patiala House, Tanu Weds Manu, Stanley Ka Dabba, Ready, Singham, Bodyguard, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan and Mausam. Only nine films in an entire year of more 75 mainstream releases!
Rewind back to the 1990s and the scenario was very different. Family films ruled the theaters. Rajshri, Yashraj and Dharma, all dealt with themes that celebrated Indian culture and the institution of the family. The biggest blockbusters over the 90s were: Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Dil (1990), Saajan (1991), Beta (1992), Aankhen (1993), Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994), Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Raja Hindustani (1996), Border (1997), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Hum Saath-Saath Hain (1999), Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai (2000), Gadar Ek Prem Katha (2001).
However, as we got into the first decade of the new millennium, the equations began to change. The multiplexes began to spring up across the country. Movie-going changed from being a ‘family outing’ to a ‘hangout activity’. As more and more multiplexes came up (the count stands at about 350 today), many of them in the vicinity of malls, the ‘hangout’ idea got stronger.
On its own, this outing vs. hangout change would not have been enough. But another thing happened at the same time. A generation changed. A new generation, far more exposed to media in various forms through the Internet, came in. This generation (not coincidentally, the same as the ‘hangout’ generation) developed its own popular culture, its own lingo, its own entertainment ‘taste’.
As a result, we had films like Dhoom, Dhoom 2, Ghajini, Love Aaj Kal, Wanted and Dabangg doing exceedingly well. Yes, there have been unifiers like 3 Idiots, Golmaal 3 and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, but far and few in between.
This year (2011) in particular, has been the year when the transition from the ‘outing generation’ to the ‘hangout generation’ is truly complete. Besides the two Salman films, all the top films of 2011 have worked purely on their acceptance by the youth, either at the campaign stage, or the content stage, or both. None less than Rockstar and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara amplify this trend, with Don 2 being the latest entrant to this list.
While deciding on his film’s positioning strategy, a producer once candidly admitted to me: “Mine is not a ‘cool’ or young film, but if I target the family, I will never get an opening to begin with. I have no option but to talk to the youth.”
You can’t fault the thought process.
In our recent ‘Decision Makers Survey’ to measure the profile of the theatre goers and understand who influences the choice of movie viewing in theaters, some interesting findings came up:
1. 69% people watch films with their friends, 15% with their families, 13% with their girlfriend/ boyfriend and 3% solo.
2. The median group size of the friends cluster (69%) is four. In simple terms, the most common movie viewing is when “four friends go together”.
3. Even for ‘family friendly’ films such as Bodyguard and Ready, the friends cluster leads with more than 50% share. It goes up to 75%+ for films like Delhi Belly and The Dirty Picture.
4. The median age of the decision maker, i.e., the person who makes the plan for the movie (choice of movie, theatre and show time), is 22 years.
5. 60% of decision makers are males, while the remaining 40% are females.
So who wants to talk to 30+ married men and women, when you know that college or just-out-of-college is where your target audience lies?
As we step in 2012, and thereafter in 2013, this trend will sharpen even more. Expect even fewer family films. Till maybe 2017-18, when this ‘hangout generation’ would have grown up, got married and made babies. If they continue to ‘hangout’, as they are likely to, you can expect family films to be back again. But, what will be the nature of the ‘family’ in these films, is anyone’s guess!