Brahmastra box office collection explained: Why the Ranbir Kapoor film has different figures from different sources

How much Brahmastra has earned at the box office has no one answer. The film has reported a number of different figures from different sources. These differing figures can be confusing for many and obviously raise some doubts. Kangana Ranaut believes the makers are ‘faking’ the numbers. The real reason is less sinister. Across India, and in the West, the box office collections of films are calculated in a number of different ways, resulting in different earnings for the same film. Here’s a breakdown on why that is so and exactly how much Brahmastra has earned. (Also read: Kangana Ranaut says Karan Johar is sharing fake Brahmastra box office numbers)

Brahmastra, directed by Ayan Mukerji, stars Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, and Mouni Roy, with extended cameos from Amitabh Bachchan, Nagarjuna, and Shah Rukh Khan. The film was released in theatres on September 9 in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannad, and Malayalam. It has done well in the Hindi belt, Telugu centres, as well as the US, Australia, and New Zealand. This mix of languages and countries is what has made data collection for Brahmastra quite challenging.

What is the difference between nett and gross?

In her allegations against Brahmastra producer Karan Johar, Kangana Ranaut questioned why he was sharing the film’s gross collections instead of nett. What is the difference, one might ask. Quite simply, gross box office collection refers to the total amount made from the ticket sales of the movie. It is always a higher figure. Nett box office collection is gross minus the amount cut by the government in various kinds of taxes, including service tax and entertainment tax. Since these taxes differ from state to state, the nett can differ from one state to another even with the same gross. A third aspect of the box office figures is distributor share, which, as the name suggests, is the amount distributors get. It is nett collection minus the rental charged by theatres.

So how exactly does this fit in with the Brahmastra saga? The film has so far earned 225 crore in gross collections worldwide. This does not mean the producers or even the distributors have earned this much. Their share is much lower. If any source gives a lower number for worldwide collection, it is not a discrepancy but quite possible that the figure is of nett collections.

Collections are calculated differently in different places

The film industry is not a homogenous and uniform body. Each region and country has a different way of doing things. So for instance, in the US, collections are reported in gross figures, while in Bollywood, nett figures are usually reported. To make the matters more complex, south India usually reports gross figures. Thankfully, nobody has resorted to reporting distributor shares as of yet or that will be a whole new problem. These varying methodologies have resulted in the biggest confusion around Brahmastra’s numbers.

On Monday, reported that Brahmastra had made 105 crore in its first weekend. Industry tracker Sacnilk reported that the film had made 146 crore in three days in India. The difference is that the first number is just the nett collections of the Hindi version while the second version is the gross collection of all language versions. There is no manipulation, just different industries following different patterns.

There are two different ways to calculate box office collections and both are used in India in different places. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT PHOTO)
There are two different ways to calculate box office collections and both are used in India in different places. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT PHOTO)

Even advance booking is calculated in two ways

If it wasn’t enough that the box office collections are calculated in different ways, then the advance booking numbers are no different. According to Sacnilk, the advance booking sales for Brahmastra for the opening day were 17.71 crore across all languages and versions. However, some trade analysts reported a higher number of 22 crore. Many alleged manipulation. But it turns out, both numbers are accurate. It’s just that sharing the second isn’t exactly ethical.

The higher figure of 22.18 crore includes the collection from blocked seats. These seats refer to those that you cannot book online. Most theatres keep a certain number of seats aside that one can only book at the physical ticket counter. Some analysts include them in advance booking figures since these seats aren’t available. However, doing that would be wrong since these seats haven’t actually been sold. The tickets are there for the taking at the counter.

An industry insider says that there is some fudging as all producers try to show the highest possible figure but the total extent of that never exceeds 5-10%. “Beyond that, you can’t put out false numbers because multiple people have access to it. Your lie will be called out,” says an exhibitor. What makers do to avoid embarrassment when the numbers are way below expectation is that they stop releasing numbers altogether. Prabhas’ Radhe Shyam and Kangana’s Dhaakad are two recent examples of that choice.

In the end, how much an Indian film earns at the box office is always a ballpark figure, and never an exact one. Due to absence of a streamlined tracking system and presence of multiple formulae, Indian box office cannot be compared to the West, where things are more streamlined. However, the real figure eventually does come out and the same can be said for Brahmastra. So if multiple credible sources report that it has earned somewhere between 212 and 225 crore, it’s a safe bet that it’s an accurate range.