New Delhi: Shah Rukh Khan’s action thriller Raees may not have kept its much-anticipated date with Salman Khan’s wrestling film Sultan earlier this year but several big-ticket Bollywood outings are eyeing box-office clashes in the coming months, especially when it comes to festive weekends.
Ajay Devgn’s directorial venture Shivaay will release alongside Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, starring Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, this Diwali. Raees itself will now hit screens with Hrithik Roshan’s Kaabil coming Republic Day, while Khan’s Imtiaz Ali film, tentatively titled The Ring, may see an Independence Day weekend release next year along with Akshay Kumar’s Crack to be directed by Neeraj Pandey.
“As exhibitors, we definitely urge producers to spread out releases over all 52 weeks in a year and look at a sustained and consistent supply of films but there are certain movies that naturally lend themselves to big dates and long weekends," said Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures.
“Plus, these dates such as Diwali, Eid, Independence Day or Republic Day have historical evidence of strong business."
That coupled with the sheer volume of films made in the country, Gianchandani added, makes holiday box office clashes inevitable.
However, multiplex penetration even in tier-II and tier-III cities makes sure a situation of the sort is handled comfortably.
Screen count, an issue cited by trade experts for the longest time, is not as much of a challenge apparently.
Girish Johar, head of global revenue, Zee Studios, whose crime thriller Rustom clashed with period drama Mohenjo Daro this month pegged the working screen count in the country at 5,500 and said that multiplexes anyway adjust screens a day or two after release depending on audience’s response.
Rustom’s current box office earnings are ₹ 122.28 crore, according to movie website Bollywood Hungama compared to Mohenjo Daro’s collections of ₹ 57.42 crore.
A few months ago, in another high-profile clash, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s war epic Bajirao Mastani ( ₹ 184.2 crore) beat Rohit Shetty’s action comedy Dilwale ( ₹ 148.72 crore). It is, however, completely possible for two films to not just co-exist in movie theatres but perform well, agreed both Johar of Zee Studios and Gianchandani. The classic example of period dramas Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and Lagaan that released in 2001 and made ₹ 44 crore and ₹ 25 crore, respectively, still stands the test of time.
Other than that, Diwali 2004 saw as many as four high-profile releases, at least two of which—Yash Chopra’s Veer Zaara and Abbas Mustan’s Aitraaz—managed impressive box office collections.
Veer Zaara made ₹ 19 crore. Aitraaz made ₹ 7 crore, both according to Bollywood Hungama.
“I think two good films can feed off each other," Gianchandani pointed out. “They work in a counter-intuitive manner to whet the audience’s appetite so they come back for the other after watching one."
To be sure, while confidence in their product and understanding of the limited release period available each year may have been important learnings for filmmakers, there are always exceptions to the rule.
For example, as Johar puts it, a Salman Khan film. Sultan, which has netted more than ₹ 300 crore across the country, proves the actor cannot be taken on.
“India, as we all know, remains grossly under-screened compared to countries like China and the US," said Gianchandani. “In that case, some mega-event films do tend to lend themselves to solo releases."