Why producers are getting cold feet about big-budget films

The way films are failing at the box office, nobody is said to be willing to take a chance, (HT)
The way films are failing at the box office, nobody is said to be willing to take a chance, (HT)


  • Several star-studded, big-budget films released in theatres after the pandemic reported poor domestic box-office collections. Films such as Adipurush and Radhe Shyam, both starring Prabhas, Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj, and Salman Khan’s Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan proved to be disasters.

Movie producers, cagey following the bombing of several big-name, big-budget movies at the box office, are either scaling back or shelving ambitious projects that require heavy investments. The situation has become more acute in the absence of guaranteed digital and satellite rights, which are crucial to recovering costs.

For instance, Ashwatthama-The Saga Continues, starring Shahid Kapoor and backed by Vashu Bhagnani’s Pooja Entertainment Ltd, is a modified and more modest version of mythological film The Immortal Ashwatthama. The latter was to be initially produced by Ronnie Screwvala, and changed multiple hands over cash and cast concerns before getting shelved. 

The budget of the new Ashwatthama movie, which has just been announced, has been slashed to 200 crore, from the 500-crore budget of the original. 

Then, new instalments of the 2022 superhero franchise Brahmastra, which starred Ranbir Kapoor, were announced but have made little progress. Likewise for Tiger Shroff’s Ganapath, whose sequels were meant to be released in multiple parts. Shroff’s other action film—Rambo—is also yet to go on the floors.

The scaling down is happening following poor domestic box-office collections reported by several big-budget movies released after the pandemic despite much hype and anticipation.

Among them are Prabhas starrers Adipurush ( 135.04 crore) and Radhe Shyam ( 151 crore); Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj ( 68.07 crore) and, more recently, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan ( 47.52 crore); Salman Khan’s Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan ( 101.44 crore); Ranveer Singh’s ’83 ( 103.68 crore) and Cirkus ( 35.79 crore); and Shroff’s Ganapath ( 11.09 crore) and Heropanti 2 ( 24.91 crore).

“Everyone is looking at recoveries very carefully now, and isn’t in the mood for exceptional risks," Yusuf Shaikh, business head of feature films at production and distribution firm Percept Pictures, said. “The way films are failing at the box office, nobody is willing to take a chance."

Shaikh added that the process becomes easier if a streaming platform comes on board and can guarantee purchase of digital rights. However, OTT services themselves are going easy on acquisition of big-star Hindi, Tamil and Telugu films after many of them failed to attract subscribers or garner substantial viewership despite the huge sums paid to acquire them.

Large theatrical releases such as Salaar (released last December) and Kalki 2898 AD (to be released this May) have found it tough to find buyers in the OTT industry, which had earlier splurged big sums on acquiring such movies after their theatrical releases.

Read more: Box-office popcorn for Cinemas, but where are the viewers?

Trade experts said there is caution on the part of both stars and makers who want the project to first seem feasible on paper before making announcements.

Mukesh Mehta, founder of southern production and distribution house E4 Entertainment, said a couple of films have been pushed back in Telugu as well, with renegotiation of star fees also taking place in the southern movie industries. To be sure, most top names like Mohanlal and Mammootty tend to co-produce their films.

“A lot of digital platforms feel they are not able to recover the fees paid to acquire movies," Mehta said. “Plus, their release calendars for 2024 are already full, so many are only looking at acquiring films for 2025 now."

Film distributor and exhibitor Sunny Khanna pointed out that a big gap lies between what stars demand as fees and what OTT platforms are willing to pay currently to acquire their films. “That explains why so many sequels are getting announced at the moment—from Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3 to Housefull and Dhamaal," Khanna said, adding that in these cases, there is at least a guarantee of box office recovery since audiences are already familiar with the franchise and makers can play safe.


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