Mid-budget movies punch above their weight at the box office

Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kriti Sanon-starrer Crew made  ₹76.57 crore at the box office since release on 29 March (Screengrab @trailer)
Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kriti Sanon-starrer Crew made 76.57 crore at the box office since release on 29 March (Screengrab @trailer)

Summary

  • While variable pricing, including lower ticket rates for specific films or buy-one-get-one offers, has worked in favour of such titles.

New Delhi: Mid-budget movies, which had taken a beating after covid, are now back with a bang, if the impressive box office numbers of titles such as Crew, Shaitaan and Article 370 are anything go.

While variable pricing, including lower ticket rates for specific films or buy-one-get-one offers, has worked in favour of such titles, the films have also built on compelling marketing and positive word-of-mouth.

At last count, Tabu, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Kriti Sanon-starrer Crew had made 76.57 crore at the box office since release on 29 March, while Ajay Devgn’s horror thriller Shaitaan had earned 147.99 crore from 8 March. Political drama Article 370 has clocked in 82.37 crore since its release on 23 February. These three films were made on budgets of 90 crore, 65-70 crore and 20 crore, respectively.

According to estimates by Elara Capital Ltd, the fourth quarter of FY24 reported a decline of 25% in Hindi box office year-on-year. But it is also one of few quarters in the post-covid era where contribution from small or medium-budget films moved upwards to 30-35%, compared to 12-15% generally seen post the pandemic. This growth has also come thanks to discounts or offers on tickets to a certain extent for selective small or medium-budget movies, Elara said.

Pointing out that after the pandemic, big-budget films dominated the box office with even bigger numbers than pre-covid times, Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, executive director, PVR INOX Ltd said that even several mid to small-scale films have had underwhelming performance at the box office, both in India and globally.

But the successes of recent mid-budget films have underscored a pertinent point. “The recent successes of small and mid-scale films such as Crew, Article 370, Shaitaan, 12th Fail and Madgaon Express underscore the enduring audience interest in quality content, irrespective of a film's scale," Bijli said, adding that the past year had also witnessed remarkable box office performance from smaller Hindi movies such as The Kerala Story, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, and Satyaprem Ki Katha.

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said that these recent films have emerged as dark horses in an environment where such titles are not considered for annual or quarterly release calendars.

“Their success is a good sign because leaning only on biggies for meeting box office targets is not healthy," Johar said, adding that the smaller-scale films have added life to the ailing theatrical business at a time when box office is at an all-time low.

Devang Sampat, managing director, Cinepolis India agreed that the success of mid-budget films at the box office indicates a promising resurgence for the genre.

“These films have managed to capture the audience's attention by offering compelling narratives and meaningful content, which resonate well in the post-pandemic era. This success signifies a shift in audience preferences towards quality storytelling over big-budget spectacles, and it's encouraging for filmmakers exploring diverse themes and narratives," Sampat said.

Mid-budget films always had an audience base that needs to be catered to, and when the content is strong and coupled with good word-of-mouth publicity, it’s sure to bring people to the big screen, Rahul Puri, managing director, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas said. Strategies (such as variable pricing) are aimed at boosting footfalls and admits as a chain. “We analyse our weekday and weekend data, post which we run offers for particular films to have guests come in larger numbers to the cinemas," Puri added.

To be sure, southern language industries saw faster recovery for small and mid-budget cinema post the pandemic, with non-star driven titles finding draw as early as 2021. While caps on ticket pricing in states like Tamil Nadu are an important reason, trade experts say Hindi cinema's slower recovery in the realm of smaller films compared to southern languages can be attributed to various factors.

“Hindi films cater to a broad and diverse audience, making it challenging to find stories that resonate with everyone," Sampat explained. “On the other hand, southern languages often benefit from a more homogeneous audience base, allowing filmmakers to target specific demographics more effectively. However, Hindi cinema is adapting by focusing on niche stories and unique narratives that cater to specific audience segments, gradually finding its footing in the post-pandemic landscape."

 

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