A-Listers give nod to new films as audiences flock back to cinemas

Producers and studio executives point to a renewed sense of momentum in the industry. (HT)
Producers and studio executives point to a renewed sense of momentum in the industry. (HT)


While remaining cautious, actors and filmmakers are eager to kickstart new projects, following signs of a revival

Stars such as Salman Khan and Aamir Khan, who had taken a break following box office setbacks, have started greenlighting new projects in the wake of a slew of successful Bollywood films drawing audiences back to the cinemas.

While announcements are still pending, Salman has reportedly agreed to sign Sooraj Barjatya’s next family drama, and an action movie by director Vishnu Vardhan. Aamir Khan has reserved Christmas 2024 for a project yet to be named, while Akshay Kumar notified a sequel to the Welcome film franchise, eight years after the last project.

Producers and studio executives highlighted a renewed sense of momentum in the industry. While remaining cautious, actors and filmmakers are eager to kickstart new projects, following signs of a revival. However, there are concerns over the issue of star fees, with producers exercising caution following months of disruptions.

“With superstars, there is a certain amount of responsibility and financial burden riding on them, so they have to be circumspect about what to sign. Over the last year or two, they have been looking out for the right projects and some kind of momentum is now built on the bumper box office run we’ve seen in August and September," Shariq Patel, chief business officer, Zee Studios, said.

These successes may not be solely attributed to individual choices, as anything agreed upon today will come to fruition at least 18 months down the road. However, the overall positive sentiment in the market is certainly helping, Patel added.

Film industry experts said that the past year saw the business crumble under the weight of several projects that were greenlit before the pandemic but didn’t find takers at the box office. Additionally, there was debate over whether the habit of going to cinemas was disrupted.

“It was a period when there was heavy dependence on ancillary revenues, because the box office wasn’t firing. But there is only so much any platform could pay. Now, however, as several sections of the audience have returned, and across markets and languages, filmmakers can be a bit aggressive as other revenue streams don’t have to do the heavy-lifting," Patel added.

That said, top stars often take away a significant share of total earnings as backend, that is, if they don’t demand an upfront fee, leaving producers with reduced profits.

Even beyond the top names, everyone in the industry has become more active post this recent restoration of theatrical confidence, said Tanuj Garg, partner at Ellipsis Entertainment. “A large number of people are putting projects together though the rate of greenlighting continues to be controlled because the economics have become more important than ever. Nobody wants to be hasty," Garg said.

To be sure, unlike the younger crop of actors, senior stars can command a fan base across demographics, film trade experts say. “The younger lot needs to realise India is a diverse country and that it’s important to connect with and cater to all segments through mainstream and not experimental movies," film distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi said. The same has been proven by the recent success of films like Jawan, Pathaan and Gadar 2 that managed to lure small-town audiences to cinemas after long.

A senior film studio executive said on condition of anonymity that the advantage that Hindi film stars continue to have today is that their movies reach out to wider audiences in the country and unlike southern stars who have only begun to benefit from dubbed versions now and are better known in specific native markets, Bollywood faces are more easily recognised. “There is always space for big star films. It’s just that the business has taken some time to stabilize post the pandemic. But nobody thought there could be a spate of 500 crore hits in a row," the person added.

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