The much-hyped Bollywood film featuring actor Hrithik Roshan and Mexican actor Barbara Mori, Kites, is set for a Friday release, with some multiplexes screening as many as 30 shows a day, making it the film with possibly the most screenings on one day.

Extended showing: A still from Kites. The film is shorter than usual Bollywood fare, allowing exhibitors to run six shows a day per screen.

The trend, seen with some other recent releases as well, reflects the strategy of film distributors and exhibitors to reach the largest possible audience during the very first weekend of a film’s release.

Here’s why: according to industry estimates, nearly 80% of a film’s theatrical collections happen during the first two weeks of its release, with the first weekend being critical.

“It really is up to marketeers to ensure that there is enough hype to draw in the crowds on Friday; then the content has to follow," says Tushar Dhingra, chief operating officer, BIG Cinemas.

With the growing reach of television channels, social networking sites and new media, “word of mouth" plays a pivotal role in deciding the fate of a film, Dhingra adds. Needless to say, distributors and exhibitors prefer to maximize their returns on investment during the first weekend, before word of mouth can—should things go wrong—break a film.

Reliance Big Pictures is distributing Kites and the company’s multiplex chain is also likely to schedule 25-30 shows a day at its theatres in Mumbai, Nodia and Ahmedabad. The smaller multiplexes will run 18-24 shows each day.

Cinemax India Ltd, a Kanakia Group company, which owns the multiplex chain Cinemax, will have 30 shows of Kites daily, starting Friday. The last time it screened 20 shows a day in a multiplex was for 3 Idiots, which became the biggest hit in Bollywood.

Introducing more shows helped Cinemax push up audience numbers by more than 100% then.

Just a few years ago, a big film like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham would be screened 28 times a week. The trend changed with films like Singh is Kinng and 3 Idiots, where producers, distributors and exhibitors decided to schedule up to 28 shows a day. Kites is now set to break that record.

According to Gaurav Verma, vice-president (distribution) at UTV Motion Pictures, people go out on weekends rather than on weekdays, “which is why most exhibitors capitalize on the hype and urgency of consumers to watch a particular movie by increasing the number of screenings".

Gautam Dutta, chief executive officer, PVR Cinemedia, a division of PVR Ltd, agrees: “If there is a lot of hype (around the film), you want to maximize the footfalls." PVR is likely to allocate maximum number of shows to Kites and Shrek 4, both of which release this week.

In the case of Kites, distributors and exhibitors clearly wish to exploit the media hype around the film.

With a duration of two hours and five minutes, Kites is shorter than usual Bollywood flicks, allowing exhibitors to run six shows a day per screen. Anything over two hours and 35 minutes can be shown only five times a day.

Increasing the number of screenings also helps cater to and draw in different audience segments. The early morning shows, for instance, appeal to both price-sensitive as well as time-sensitive audiences. Tickets to the early morning shows at Cinemax come at a discount of more than 40% discount and tend to attract college students and senior citizens.

Another reason why both distributors and exhibitors are keen that the film rakes in its maximum revenue over the first weekend is piracy. In certain cases, pirated DVDs or VCDs are available within hours of the release. “If consumers don’t get to watch the film when they want to, there is a tendency to opt for pirated copies. So, expanding the reach of the film helps minimize the loss of revenue (to piracy)," says Dhingra.