Mumbai: The new king of the box office is loud, brash and has cracked the secret to a perfect opening weekend.
Singh is Kinng, a comedy starring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif, grossed a record Rs59.5 crore in its first three days in cinemas, thanks to a release strategy that sets a new yardstick for opening success.
Clever timing, coupled with the highest number of prints ever distributed through the country, helped the masala flick, which tells the tale of a simple Punjabi lad who bumbles his way into becoming the king of the underworld. Its opening last weekend set a Bollywood film opening record, according to The Indian Film Co. (IFC), which co-produced the film and distributed 1,400 prints of the film to 1,700 screens globally.
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Analysts say the planning and execution of the launch signal that Reliance Big Entertainment, the movie production arm of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, which has backed the film, is preparing to up the ante with similar high-profile releases of 100 films that it aims to have lined up by the end of this year.
Reliance officials did not return calls for comment.
The company is currently bankrolling 70 films to the tune of about Rs200 crore. Through collaborations with Indian directors as well as Hollywood production houses, including a possible deal with Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks SKG, that number is due to increase.
Singh is Kinng benefited from a carefully choreographed launch, which made it the sole contender opening in the weekend before Independence Day. The timing ensured a captive audience in the run-up to the long weekend, when it will have to field competition from just two major releases, God Tussi Great Ho, starring Amitabh Bachchan, and Bachna Ae Haseeno, with Ranbir Kapoor.
Leaving nothing to chance, the distributors and makers of the film accompanied the release with an aggressive marketing and promotion campaign, which cost IFC up to 20% of the amount it paid for the rights of the film from the backers, a group that included Reliance Big Entertainment and Hari Om Entertainment, the production house set up by Kumar.
IFC also sold the music rights to Junglee Music, a division of Times Music, in a Rs13.5 crore deal, also a record amount. Indeed, in the days leading up to the film, radio stations repeatedly blared the refrain of the title song by Kumar, featuring popular US rapper Snoop Dogg. The video, which features the rapper in a turban, also saw wide play.
Ruling the screens: A promotional shot of Singh is Kinng.
Besides the standard trailers and commercials across media, the film also used contests on both television and the Internet to drum up interest. An industry official on the condition of anonymity says the film spent up to Rs10 crore on marketing.
The well-choreographed release comes in the wake of similar successes enjoyed by blockbusters, including Eros International’s Om Shanti Om, which held the previous record for opening weekend returns, as well as Welcome and Jab We Met, all of which relied on heavily planned opening weekends and clever marketing ahead of release.
“The success of a film doesn’t just depend on the content,” says Sandeep Bhargava, chief executive of IFC’s advisory company, who advocates spending as much time on promoting a film and planning the release as making it. “It is important to market a particular film, and the marketing is as important as the content. This launch sets a new standard for releases.”
Bhargava notes that hype around a film has to be created “from the moment it hits the floor”, with interest in the film being kept alive at every moment in order for it to become one of the most awaited films of the season. “Gone are the days of the six-week marketing campaign,” he adds. “Promoting the film and planning its release starts long before the movie goes onto the floor. The stakes are increasing as the market becomes even more combative.”
Kishore Lulla, chairman and chief executive of Eros International, the production house behind Om Shanti Om, agrees with Bhargava’s notion that marketing is as important as content to ensure a successful opening weekend, especially given the variety of choices on offer to consumers.
“After the opening weekend, it’s the capability of the content to carry the film forward,” he says. “In such a scenario, strategically planning out releases is very important.”
Though the push to dominate the silver screen shattered box office records, multiplex operators say it was by no means the cleverest promotional campaign, but the most aggressive.
“Its about capacity, and the number of shows,” according to Tushar Dhingra, chief operating officer of Adlabs Cinemas. “Singh is Kinng was a solo release and they went all-out.”
In addition, the strategy and science of release timings will just keep getting more aggressive, according to industry observers and analysts.
“This is just the beginning,” says Taran Adarsh, trade analyst and film critic. “Things are going only one way, and the trend follows the Hollywood model. To extract the maximum revenue, the makers flood the market with prints... Singh is Kinng has shown the way.”