In October 2015, representatives of Indian movie exhibitors—owners or heads of companies that operate multiplexes and single-screen theatres—gathered for a lavish lunch meeting at the JW Marriott Hotel in Mumbai’s Juhu area. Every theatre owner, big or small, had been invited.
The host that day was Rentrak, a global media-measurement and research company headquartered in the United States, which had announced that it would be opening an India office in Hyderabad. Rentrak calculates, among other things, box-office figures for Hollywood and other film industries, and claims to track 95 percent of the international box office. It had chosen the entertainment-industry veteran Rajkumar Akella to head its Indian subsidiary. At the Marriott meeting, Akella was making one of the earliest of several efforts he has made over the last two years to convince exhibitors to collaborate with Rentrak India and bring accuracy and transparency to box-office measurements in the country.
But the meeting did not go as Akella had anticipated. An industry executive who was present at the meeting told me that PVR—the largest cinema chain in the country, with 469 screens to its name at the time—objected to tying up with Rentrak. However, the industry executive said, the PVR’s representatives did not give reasons for their opposition. “The undercurrent in the room was that they”—some of the exhibitors—“were reluctant to give out their numbers because they were probably fudging them,” he told me.