New Delhi: In yet another high-profile box office clash, Akshay Kumar-starrer Rustom stole a march over Ashutosh Gowariker’s period drama Mohenjo Daro last weekend. The crime drama based on a real-life incident that happened with K.M Nanavati, who was tried for the murder of his wife’s lover, released in about 2,317 screens across the country and made 14.11 crore on the opening day on 12 August, following up with 16.43 crore and 19.88 crore in the next two days, taking its total weekend collection to 50.42 crore.

The Hrithik Roshan-starrer, on the other hand, managed 8.87 crore, 9.60 crore and 12.07 crore on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, together making 30.54 crore, despite having a higher screen count of 2,800-3,000 screens.

The release date of the period film co-produced by UTV Motion Pictures (a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company) and Ashutosh Gowariker Productions was announced much before Rustom’s.

“Disney is a regular producer and distributor and has an impressive line-up, including Hollywood releases. That does give them an edge over other studios," pointed out Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. “Their release dates are always confirmed in advance, so they can lock theatres before anyone else if there is a possibility of clash."

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Disney’s backing doesn’t seem to have helped Mohenjo Daro much. For one, as Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures, said, as far as the multiplexes are concerned, the showcasing and screen count allocated to both films was equitable, objective and scientific.

To add to that, the buzz around Gowariker’s film was so unpromising, especially closer to release, that the makers slowed down on promotions even as Zee Studios, co-producers of Rustom, turned more aggressive, said a trade expert, who declined to be named. Popular celebrities were seen participating in a countdown to Kumar’s film on social media. The negative reviews for Mohenjo Daro after release didn’t help, especially to do with the fact that a film with a budget over 100 crore didn’t seem to justify its costs.

Kumar’s crime drama directed by Tinu Suresh Desai, on the other hand, made at less than 50 crore, is well on its way to recovering its costs.

“Akshay Kumar is going through that phase in his career where he’s being identified as an actor, if you particularly consider his last few films like Baby and Airlift," Mohan said. “That has been coupled with smart marketing and distribution for the film to infuse a patriotic vibe especially around this time of Independence Day."

While Mohan expects Rustom to finish the week at 80-85 crore, business for Mohenjo Daro should fall in the range of 50-60 crore, he said. Not all is lost for the period drama though, as some others are more enthused.

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“Considering how Mohenjo Daro was panned by critics, the film didn’t entirely sink Saturday onwards, as often happens," said Rajendar Singh, vice-president, programming and distribution, INOX Leisure Ltd. “Its performance may still be below expectations but the collections have grown adverse to critical response."

And there is almost an entire festive week to bank on. The four-day weekend ending with Independence Day will be followed by a bank holiday on Wednesday and Rakshabandhan on Thursday (18 August).

“There is plenty of opportunity for both films," said Gianchandani. “Those who watched Rustom first will now come back to theatres to watch Mohenjo Daro and vice-versa."

All figures have been sourced from movie website Bollywood Hungama.

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