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Business News/ Industry / Media/  Film-makers bank on sequels as original content disappoints

Film-makers bank on sequels as original content disappoints

Hits in Hindi and southern languages have primarily been films from established franchises, emphasizing the importance of brand and recall value.

Five titles—Pushpa: The Rule-Part 2, Welcome to the Jungle, Singham Again, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Indian 2—releasing this year are either sequels or belong to established franchises.Premium
Five titles—Pushpa: The Rule-Part 2, Welcome to the Jungle, Singham Again, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Indian 2—releasing this year are either sequels or belong to established franchises.

New Delhi: A list of the most anticipated Indian movies scheduled for theatrical release in 2024, according to IMDb, an online movie database, includes five titles that are either sequels or belong to established franchises—Pushpa: The Rule-Part 2, Welcome to the Jungle, Singham Again, Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Indian 2.

This is a clear indication that producers are reluctant to bet on fresh content and original scripts, preferring to playing it safe by rolling out sequels to titles that have established their mass appeal and commercial success. This caution is reinforced by the failure of Dunki, a star vehicle with an original script, to excite the masses, trade experts and theatre owners said.

In fact, major hits across Hindi and the southern languages after the pandemic have primarily been films that are part of established franchises and cinematic universes that the audiences are familiar with. For instance, Sooryavanshi, KGF: Chapter 2, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Pathaan and Gadar 2 set the cash registers ringing.

“Franchise films have been a dominant force driving growth and stability for Hollywood over the past two decades. The contribution of franchise films to the Hindi theatrical domestic box office has grown from a mere 17% in 2019 to 45% in 2023. As the theatrical landscape increasingly leans on event-driven films, choosing the right film to expand or initiate the franchise can go a long way in creating a powerful theatrical product," Sanket Kulkarni, head of business development (theatrical), at media consulting firm Ormax, had said as part of a report that identified the top 100 Hindi film franchises (current and potential) based on audience equity.

According to film trade experts, the brand and recall value associated with franchises is unmatched. At a time when where several stars are failing to get great openings, theatre owners say it is safe to bet on a brand that can drive footfall.

“The idea is to make a film that can cater to universal audiences, and not target specific niches alone. One way to do it is to get a star on board, who can manage big openings. If that isn’t happening, you need an IP (intellectual property) that already has a fan base," independent exhibitor Vishek Chauhan said. A franchise made well with a bankable star remains the most lethal combination, he added, citing the example of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan, which is part of Yash Raj Films’ Spy Universe, and Tamil film Leo featuring Vijay that is the third instalment in director Lokesh Kanagaraj’s cinematic universe including action thrillers Kaithi and Vikram.

To be sure, few studios and film-makers want to take the risk of betting on an entirely fresh script at a time production, distribution and marketing costs of theatrical films has skyrocketed. There is huge money involved in the brand equity of a proven hit, and any film that does work now, is also bound to see a sequel.

For instance, according to the Ormax report, sequels to Pathaan and Jawan, both released last year, are already anticipated.

“Franchises were a safer bet, especially when people weren’t really coming to theatres (post covid). A fresh idea always needs more marketing and while there are new films that have done well, we see a lot more franchise films, going forward," said Amit Sharma, managing director of Miraj Entertainment, a company that operates multiplex theatres.

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Lata Jha
Lata writes about the media and entertainment industry for Mint, focusing on everything from traditional film and TV to newer areas like video and audio streaming, including the business and regulatory aspects of both. She loves movies and spends a lot of her free time in theatres, which makes her job both fun and a bit of a challenge given that entertainment news often just talks about the glamorous side of things. Lata, on the other hand, tries to find and report on themes and trends in the entertainment world that most people don't notice, even though a lot of people in her country are really into movies. She’s a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.
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Published: 10 Jan 2024, 10:22 PM IST
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