After Team India lost to Sri Lanka in the semi-finals of the 1996 cricket World Cup, Ian Chappell commented, “If only India had played to their strengths...”. What he meant was that right through the tournament, India was more adept at defending the score while Lankans preferred chasing it. But for this crucial match, India chose to field first. Chappell added that the fate of the match was decided the moment India invited Sri Lanka to bat first.
What Chappell said about knowing one’s strengths also proved right when a plethora of movies—Aage se Right, Fox, Three–Love Lies and Betrayal, Chintuji, Bachelor Party, Mohandas and Final Destination 4—released on the same date. The makers were apprehensive that once the shraadh and Ramzan periods were over, and the bigger films started releasing, their movies would sink at the box office. Expectedly, the result wasn’t any different when they all chose the same week for release. The films only ended up eating into each other’s share.
Also Read Ashish Saksena’s earlier columns
The release date plays an important role in the success of a film. But the problem arises when producers stop experimenting and questioning the validity of a certain release date. Often we have pre-conceived notions that films should not be released in the pre-exam, Ramzan, pre-Dussehra and pre-Diwali periods. We have already decided that the best period to release a film are from May to August and then post-Diwali and then Christmas. Producers follow these rules blindly.
The phenomenon of multiple releases in a week is expected to recur in November and December when the big films will clash, resulting in two or even three releases in a week. All this simply because everyone wants to release their films in this supposedly strong period instead of moving them to February and March next year when they would be assured of a bigger and better release and a longer run at the theatres.
There are those, however, who take a gamble and succeed. Munnabhai MBBS, which was scheduled to release on 10 January 2004, got a window of opportunity when LOC Kargil, which was earlier slotted for 19 December 2003, moved to the next year. Despite shortage of time, and warning that it was a bad move to release a film in the pre-Christmas period, its producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra grabbed this date and he was rewarded with better showcasing and therefore a successful extended run, making the film a hit.
For long, Christmas holidays were considered a bad time to release a film. It was believed that year-ending festivity and holidays overseas prove to be a hindrance for a successful run. Bhaagam Bhag released on 22 December and proved sceptics wrong. Now Aamir Khan virtually owns this date with Taare Zameen Par and Ghajini releasing during Christmas in the last two years and 3 Idiots releasing this year around the same time.
We often end up not releasing a film in the gloomy school examination period that lasts from the end of February to the end of March. But Ab Tak Chhappan released on 27 February, Malamaal Weekly on 10 March, Race on 21 March, Titanic on 6 March and Catch Me if You Can on 28 February, proving that nothing can stop a good film from conquering the box office.
The pre-Diwali period has been another no-no for releasing films. Anees Bazmi’s Deewangee, Jab We Met and Barsaat released in this period and still did superb business. When Ram Gopal Varma released Vaastu Shastra in the same period, the film took a great opening but Naach, which released in the traditionally strong period of Diwali in the same year, flopped miserably.
It’s evident from all the examples above that nothing can help a bad film, not even the best release period. Likewise, nothing can stop a good film from making a mark.
Coming to the latest releases, Aage se Right, produced and distributed by UTV Motion Pictures, was aggressively marketed and released with 220 prints and on about 290 screens, costing Rs8 crore including print and advertising (P&A). The film, however, met with poor response and poor reviews. Its India, theatrical business will wind up at around Rs2 crore at best, with other rights contributing another Rs2 crore, resulting in a loss of Rs4 crore at the end of its first run.
Fox got the best pre-release buzz among all the other releases of the week, thanks to its impressive marketing and its decent star cast of Sunny Deol and Arjun Rampal. Made at a cost of Rs15 crore including P&A, the film will do an India theatrical business of about Rs3 crore. Other rights will fetch another Rs3-4 crore and the film is likely to incur a loss of about Rs8-9 crore in the first cycle.
Three–Love Lies and Betrayal, to an extent, used the release date to its advantage by releasing the film at 3pm on 3 September in line with its title. But the film could have done a lot better if it had released on another date because it only ended up becoming the third or fourth choice of the audiences. Costing Rs6 crore including P&A, its India business will be Rs75 lakh and its other monetizable rights will earn another Rs1.5 crore at best, resulting in a loss of Rs3.75 crore for the producers, ASA Films.
I must add, though, that the business model of ASA Films, despite the business of Three..., is sound and sensible as it makes films on a moderate budget and monetizes all the rights—including music—itself, which is a hallmark of a complete production company.
It is unfortunate that Mohandas and Chintuji came out in this crowded period because they got a very cramped release, with Mohandas going out to about 60 screens and Chintuji about 20 screens, resulting in both films failing to make any mark at the box office. Bachelor Party was a non-starter.
Final Destination 4 released with 45 prints and in about 70 screens. The trailer of the film was very promising as the film was in 3D, but it received poor reviews. The first week closed at an average distributor share of Rs80 lakh and it will wind up making about a crore or so.
Last weekend, Kaminey became the third film, after New York and Love Aaj Kal to cross the Rs17.5 crore net collections mark in the six multiplexes and became eligible for an additional 2.5% share in weeks 1 and 2.
Releasing this week are Baabarr, Vaada Raha...I Promise, Ruslaan and Aamras in Hindi and 9, District 9, The Ugly Truth and I Can’t Think Straight in English.
Ashish Saksena is an executive with extensive experience in India’s entertainment sector and was previously CEO of PVR Pictures. His weekly column looks at the business side of Bollywood releases.
Respond to his columns at firstname.lastname@example.org