NEW DELHI: Bollywood is bracing itself for the dullest Eid in years, even as multiplex owners hope for staggered cinema openings across the country by mid-July or later.
Expectations were high for this Eid. Trade experts say Salman Khan-starrer Radhe and Akshay Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb, both slated for the festival release, could have together made ₹45-50 crore on day one.
“This could have been one of the biggest Eids ever and a week of immense excitement and trade banter on which film gets more shows and better timings. Unfortunately, as things stand now, this is the dullest Eid since 2009 when Salman Khan’s Wanted had arrived with zero buzz though it had gone on to do stupendous business," Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said.
Mohan rightly points to the Eid phenomenon that Khan has come to own for the past 11 years. After Wanted that had made ₹60.24 crore, he came up with Dabangg in 2010 that earned ₹141.24 crore, Bodyguard ₹144.78 crore in 2011, and Ek Tha Tiger made ₹186.14 crore in 2012, briefly making way for Shah Rukh Khan’s Chennai Express at ₹207.69 crore in 2013. He returned with action comedy Kick at ₹211.63 crore in 2014, and notched up his two biggest Eid blockbusters with Kabir Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan ₹315.49 crore, and Ali Abbas Zafar’s Sultan at ₹300.67 crore in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Khan’s Eid fortunes have floundered since 2017, his Tubelight ( ₹114.57 crore), Race 3 ( ₹166.15 crore) and Bharat ( ₹197.34 crore) did set the cash registers ringing but failed to recoup their massive investments. On an average though, depending upon the actual day of festivities, Khan’s Eid releases have managed manage anything between ₹25 crore and ₹35 crore on their opening days.
“Unlike festive weekends like Diwali, Republic Day or Independence Day, Eid has never seen a clash and has always been dominated by Khan. Had either Radhe or Laxmmi Bomb been a solo release, they could have easily made ₹30-35 crore each on day one. But by clashing, they would have definitely eaten into each other’s business," Mohan explained.
As things stand now, Khan’s Radhe remains firm on a theatrical release. The film, also co-produced by him and directed by Prabhu Deva, is yet to film two songs and some sequences with the dubbing, VFX and post-production work incomplete too.
Kumar’s Laxmmi Bomb, people familiar with the development say, is slated for a digital release on Disney+ Hotstar by co-producers Fox Star Studios, part of Disney India.
Notwithstanding the dull Eid festivities as well as the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of cinema theatres in India, Bollywood is banking upon festive weekends in the second half of the year--Independence Day, Dussehra, Diwali, among others--to breathe life back into the exhibition business. The holiday weekends typically add 10-15% to the business of big-ticket films.
Apart from Radhe, tentpole movies such as Kumar’s Rohit Shetty-directed action thriller Sooryavanshi, Kabir Khan’s sports drama ’83 and Varun Dhawan-starrer Coolie No.1 have made clear that they will wait for cinemas to reopen instead of opting for digital during amid the current crisis. A direct-to-digital release doesn’t even make sense for these films given that they will not be able to recover their huge costs without theatrical showcasing.
“There is no rule book on recovery and we do expect the first four weeks to be slow. But once the big films arrive, there should be a sharp spike in admissions given that people appreciate movie-going as a social and community experience," Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive, PVR Pictures said.