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On Christmas, Shah Rukh Khan’s much-awaited Zero will hit theatres alongside DC’s superhero flick Aquaman.
On Christmas, Shah Rukh Khan’s much-awaited Zero will hit theatres alongside DC’s superhero flick Aquaman.

Big festive weekends no longer Bollywood’s domain

The two Independence Day releases, Akshay Kumar's Gold and John Abraham's Satyameva Jayate will face stiff competition from action thriller Mile 22 that arrives a week later

New Delhi: Big-ticket Bollywood films are no longer the only ones vying for extended festive weekends to bring in greater box office returns. Traditionally, big budget and star cast Hindi films have cashed in on occasions like Eid, Christmas, Diwali, Dussehra and national holidays where trade experts say, the festivity of the opening weekend can bring 40-45% of the movie’s ultimate business. Big Bollywood filmmakers have also ensured adequate window periods before and after the release of their films to maximize business. But while the potential of the holiday weekend remains, the competition has grown.

This Dussehra, director Vipul Amrutlal Shah’s romantic comedy Namaste England starring Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra will clash with Hollywood adventure fantasy Mowgli. Shah Rukh Khan’s much-awaited Zero, slated for Christmas, will arrive in theatres alongside DC’s superhero flick Aquaman.

Even Aamir Khan’s big Diwali release Thugs of Hindostan will not have an uninterrupted run for very long. The action adventure will have to compete with fantasy drama Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald within a week of release, unlike earlier when big festival Bollywood releases would dominate theatres for at least two weeks at a stretch.

More immediately, the two Independence Day releases, Akshay Kumar’s Gold and John Abraham’s Satyameva Jayate will face stiff competition from action thriller Mile 22 that arrives a week later.

“Of course, everyone wants a solo release but that is going to increasingly become a rarity in the industry now," said trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

“There are only limited weeks and holidays in the year but time has proven two good films can always coexist." Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema, emphasized the increasing potential of Hollywood films to set the cash registers ringing, with or without competing films, a factor that studios have begun to consider when pushing these movies for festive weekends in India.

“India has emerged as one of the biggest markets for Hollywood in recent years," Mohan said. “Access to social media ensures everyone knows about foreign films and dubbed regional language versions almost make it seem like there are multiple big films releasing."

Moreover, Hollywood studios now spend generously on marketing and localizing their films for Indian audiences, Mohan says some marketing budgets are only slightly lower than the total cost of production of a Hindi film.

Given the rise of Hollywood in the country, the movies have gone from notching up screen counts of 800 to nearly 2,000 in recent years. According to the media and entertainment industry report by lobby group Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and consulting firm Ernst and Young, the box office collections of Hollywood, inclusive of all regional language dubbed versions, totaled 8.01 billion in 2017, comprising 13% of the overall movie box office in the country.

Earlier this year, Marvel’s superhero flick Avengers: Infinity War had emerged as the highest Hollywood grosser ever in the country with lifetime collections of 227.43 crore, much higher than many local films.

Not all is lost for Bollywood though. Adarsh said the success of recent films like Sanju (Rs 339.93 crore), Raazi (Rs 123.84 crore) and most importantly, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (Rs 510.99 crore) shows that while holidays are an advantage, good content runs on regular weekends too.

“The challenges are getting bigger and clashes will happen," Mohan said. “The point is the industry has to pull up its socks, when you buy a 300 theatre ticket, the storytelling has to be worth the money, otherwise you can go back to the monthly digital service subscription that costs less."

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