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New Delhi: The past week saw the high-profile announcement of two Bollywood projects. Film maker Rakesh Roshan locked the next instalment of the Krrish franchise, Krrish 4, for Christmas 2018 alongside director Aanand L. Rai’s untitled Shah Rukh Khan-starrer.
Soon after though, Roshan said he would move his film to another date to avoid the clash.
Also, Yash Raj Films took over Christmas 2017 for a Salman Khan-starrer directed by Ali Abbas Zafar titled Tiger Zinda Hai.
Earlier this month, YRF had announced an Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan film called Thugs of Hindostan to be directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya scheduled for a Diwali 2018 release.
Soon after the success of his recent release Rustom, Akshay Kumar took to social media to announce his collaboration with director Neeraj Pandey for a film called Crack to be out on the Independence Day weekend of 2017.
This advance blocking of dates isn’t an entirely original strategy though.
“We may not have been completely successful as far as the studio culture is concerned but we are adopting the Hollywood style of announcing release dates two to four years in advance,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. “They always have exhaustive movie slates ready.”
The date blocking is dependent entirely on extended and festive holiday weekends. While Diwali was always seen as a lucrative period, actors like Salman Khan and Aamir Khan brought Eid and Christmas to the forefront respectively, Mohan said.
“With piracy looming large, everyone has realized that films are a perishable commodity. You have to make the best of the first three or four days of release since 60-70% of the box office comes then. In a scenario like that where the stakes are so high, an additional holiday makes much difference,” Mohan said.
The trend may not have begun at a specific point of time but has been dominated by some major players.
“I think Yash Raj has always been the most organized of the lot. They’ve had their entire year planned for the longest time and hardly ever postponed releases,” said Ashish Saksena, chief operating officer, cinemas at BookMyShow, the online ticketing site.
Saksena added that earlier Indian films often saw staggered releases even within the country. That having changed led to planned slates not just for the year but like in some of these cases, for two upcoming years.
“That is the new trend, the whole blocking of dates up to two years in advance,” he said. “And I think the point is to avoid clashes-if everyone knows when a big film will hit screens, others can schedule themselves accordingly.”
Industry experts emphasize though that mere locking of a release date doesn’t signify much apart from a general commitment to audiences. Distribution, exhibition and marketing deals are only done six to seven months before release.
“Most of these big-ticket films are distributed by the producers themselves. But even if a buyer is interested, they can’t commit that early especially without knowing which other films will release around the same time,” Saksena said.
The only risk or disadvantage associated with the date blocking strategy is that you’re working backwards. Apart from Raees that pushed its release date to avoid a clash and Fan that saw delays in post-production, there aren’t really instances of a film missing out on its stipulated release date.
“I think it’s a healthy trend in terms of audiences knowing what to look forward to instead of haphazard announcements,” said Girish Johar, head of global revenue, Zee Studios. “Even if the film does get delayed because of unavoidable circumstances, those will also be publicized anyway.”