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Business News/ Industry / Media/  ‘Krrish 3’ and the science of flying solo

‘Krrish 3’ and the science of flying solo

'Krrish 3' to benefit from being the only Hindi release for Diwali weekend, with no other movie to distract viewers

Krrish 3 rides on the fan base built around the predecessors ‘Koi... Mil Gaya’ and ‘Krrish’. Premium
Krrish 3 rides on the fan base built around the predecessors ‘Koi... Mil Gaya’ and ‘Krrish’.

Mumbai: Krrish is ready to save the world for the second time running, but this time, the homegrown superhero won’t be looking over his shoulder.

Rakesh Roshan’s Krrish 3 is opening on 1 November and will be the sole Hindi release for the Diwali weekend, unlike previous years when at least two movies battled for a share of the lucrative holiday season box-office.

Those unconcerned with whether or not Krrish saves the world from the dastardly designs of arch-villain Kaal in Krrish 3 have the choice of watching something else—the screen adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s fantasy novel Ender’s Game, or Tamil star Ajith’s Arrambam. And on 8 November, another fantasy adventure, Thor: The Dark World, will open in 2D and 3D.

It’s not as though Ender’s Game poses any threat to Krrish 3’s prospects. At best, it will steal away a few screens. Rakesh Roshan’s mass-oriented spectacle, starring Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Vivek Oberoi and Kangana Ranaut, rides on the fan base built around the predecessors Koi... Mil Gaya (2003) and Krrish (2006).

Krrish 3 will open on over 3,000 screens, and is destined to make a lot of money because of the Diwali holidays, higher ticket rates, the franchise’s popularity, cross-promotional activities on television, especially on children’s channels (which have been screening the older titles as well as an animated series based on the character), tie-ups with several brands, and a hectic cross-country tour undertaken by leading man Hrithik Roshan.

But most of all, Krrish 3 will benefit from being the only Hindi release of the week, with no other movie to distract viewers from the act of reaching into their pockets.

The idea of the solo Hindi release has gained tremendous currency in recent months. The benefits are obvious. A movie with a big-name producer, a reputed director and marquee stars gets to negate the competition and gallop faster towards the 100-crore benchmark of box-office success. The forced monopoly allows distributors to overcome negative feedback and rake in the money within the first few days, one of the changes that Rakesh Roshan has had to deal with.

The production, dissemination and consumption of popular cinema have changed dramatically in the decade that separates Krrish 3 and the veteran director’s initial foray into science fiction.

“A lot has changed since the earlier films. The budget is higher, the visual effects are tremendous, everything is on a larger scale, and the business is now all about one or two weeks," he said.

Previous solo releases, including Bodyguard,Ready, Ek Tha Tiger, Chennai Express, Besharam and Boss, have benefited tremendously from the absence of competition. The no-shows of Besharam and Boss might have curbed Krrish 3’s ambitions somewhat, but their commercial failures have also whetted the trade’s appetite for a festive season blockbuster.

“Although the pre-release buzz for Krrish 3 wasn’t hot, exhibitors are depending on the movie as they hope to make back the money they lost on Ranbir Kapoor (Besharam) and Akshay Kumar (Boss)," said veteran trade analyst Vinod Mirani. Despite the initial indifferent response to early trailers, Krrish 3 has willy-nilly become hot property, especially since it has been sold on a minimum guarantee in most territories, he pointed out.

Under the minimum guarantee regime, a movie’s sale price depends on its estimated box-office worth, and the distributor pays the producer a share of the earnings only if it exceeds this price. Unlike an outright sale scenario, in which the producer sells the movie to a distributor and has no further role to play in its performance, the minimum guarantee system involves both the producer and distributor and locks the producer into ensuring adequate pre-release buzz to ensure a bumper opening.

“Krrish 3 will take the maximum possible number of screens for anybody who is willing to pay the minimum guarantee," Mirani said. “That is the only way you can recover your money."

There is science but not always logic to solo releases. Producers plot release dates based on potentially lucrative periods in the calendar, such as the end of the academic year, festivals, and public holidays.

“The numbers that you get during a national holiday, you can’t get any other time,’ said Prakhar Joshi, head of programming at PVR Cinemas. “We prefer solo releases since many multiplexes have only three or four screens and are unable to cater to the demand."

Movies that come out in July tend to be youth-oriented, for instance, because of the perception that colleges have just opened and students haven’t yet become serious about their attendance record.

“The trade is window-driven, so you need to evaluate whether it makes sense to clash with another film," said Gaurav Verma, India theatrical distribution head at Disney UTV, which distributed Chennai Express. “No one wants to compromise on revenue in the first week."

The world has changed rapidly since the days of Taare Zameen Par and Welcome, both of which opened on 21 December 2007, or Veer Zaara and Aitraaz, which were released on 12 November 2004 (the same day as Naach and the colourized version of Mughal-E-Azam), he pointed out.

“At that time, the opening weekend wasn’t so significant," Verma said. “A film could pick up in a week or two but now, word of mouth is travelling faster than anything else, and you need to encash within the first week itself."

Until last year, the practice was to release films with different themes on Diwali, Mirani pointed out, but the latest tendency is to avoid splitting the pie and pitting filmmakers against each other. Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, one a retro revenge movie and the other a star-crossed romance, were both released on 9 November 2007, but only Om Shanti Om benefited from that Diwali weekend.

“Everybody wants a good box-office draw, and nobody wants a conflict," Mirani said.

Solo releases bank on the charisma of their leading men (female actors cannot yet guarantee a lucrative opening), but often, the wattage of the star can blind the trade to a movie’s drawbacks, which are often evident early on. Besharam and Boss managed to hog the screens despite tepid trailers and questionable estimates of their money-earning potential. Besharam, in particular, maimed distributors and exhibitors because it opened on 2 October, a Wednesday, and wasn’t followed by another movie until 11 October.

“Whether a movie turns out to be the biggest blockbuster or a damp squib is a matter of perception," said Akshaye Rathi, director at Vidharbha Exhibitors Pvt. Ltd and Saroj Screens Pvt. Ltd. “People decide to watch films depending on their trailers," said Rathi, a fourth-generation film distributor and exhibitor. “There are very few instances where, after an excellent trailer, the buzz has dropped so badly that the movie has done terrible business and the other way round."

The fact that there is actually something else on Friday apart from Krrish 3 helps exhibitors lower their risks, he added. “We are playing Krrish 3 for a week and after that, depending on how the film is doing, it’s a good idea to divide your eggs into various baskets," said Nagpur-based Rathi, whose companies own 23 single screen cinemas in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and handle the programming for over 100 other theatres. “There are places where we will follow up the movie with Thor, and there are other places where we might wait till Ram-Leela (Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 15 November release)."

Distribution can’t be made the scapegoat for whether a film works or not, said Disney UTV’s Verma. “The audience responds largely to expectations, not to the film itself," he said. “Sometimes, expectations can be high and won’t be met."

In this game of expectation management, a movie can have a swell opening day or two and then lose all steam thereafter, but it doesn’t terribly matter. Movies such as Madras Cafe, Satyagraha and even Phata Poster Nikla Hero had respectable opening weekends.

“There is no theory; sometimes a film works and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on a lot of things," Mirani said. Such as blowing away the competition, and going it alone superhero style.

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Published: 31 Oct 2013, 11:34 PM IST
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