Star-studded, high-budget spectacle films fizzle out after big openings

Bollywood titles such as Tiger 3, Adipurush, and Ganpath have fizzled out, in some cases, failing to build on big openings. (Screengrab from YouTube/YRF)
Bollywood titles such as Tiger 3, Adipurush, and Ganpath have fizzled out, in some cases, failing to build on big openings. (Screengrab from YouTube/YRF)

Summary

  • Theatre owners and trade experts say the word-of-mouth around films has become hugely critical and audiences are no longer stepping out for even big stars

NEW DELHI : Contrary to the perception that big-budget films featuring mainstream stars and high on visual spectacle or slick action stunts are shining at the box office, especially post covid, recent Bollywood titles such as Tiger 3, Adipurush, and Ganpath have fizzled out, in some cases, failing to build on big openings.

Theatre owners and trade experts say the word-of-mouth around films has become hugely critical and audiences are no longer stepping out for even big stars. Despite mass-market elements of action, drama and special effects, these films did not generate adequate excitement among viewers.

Tiger 3, for instance, opened on the day of Diwali at 44.50 crore, jumping by 33.15% the day after, also a holiday in much of the country, to earn another 59.25 crore. However, the film ended the first week, a festive one with multiple holidays, with only 188.25 crore and had clocked in a total of 271.75 crore at last count. Combined with overseas collections, the producers should be able to take home about 175 crore at the end of the movie’s box-office run, trade experts say, making for underwhelming numbers when other star vehicles such as Jawan and Pathaan have crossed the 500-crore mark within India alone.

Another high-budget film, Adipurush starring Prabhas and made at 400 crore, ended its theatrical run in the country at 127 crore this June.

“The word-of-mouth around these films didn’t translate into any urgency to go to the theatres to watch them. Even mass-market cinema needs positive conversation around it, if viewers are told the film is terrible, there is no reason to step out because movie-going habits have changed big time," Yusuf Shaikh, business head, feature films at production and distribution company Percept Pictures said.

It was true, Shaikh said, that until a few years ago, even average fare featuring mainstream faces were a draw at the box office but ticket prices have skyrocketed in the past couple of years, making viewers reluctant to sample anything that doesn’t seem worth their while. For a tent-pole film especially released during the festive season, tickets are usually priced above 400 with premium formats such as IMAX found in big cities, costing upwards of 700.

To be sure, trade experts estimate Tiger 3 to have lost at least 50 crore to two World Cup matches. While the nearly 300 crore box-office numbers aren’t entirely disastrous, expectations from a film belonging to Yash Raj Films’ spy universe, which boasts of hits such as Pathaan and War, were higher.

Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said unlike earlier, no film is dependent entirely on theatrical box office anymore, and producers ensure the cost of production is covered by digital and other rights. “You can only expect real die-hard film goers to come to cinemas. A lot of the rest is artificial hype because not only has purchasing power of viewers come down, they are happy to miss films that don’t carry great reviews," Pillai said. Even down south, Karthi’s Tamil film Japan, didn’t create any waves, despite a Diwali release and the bankable star’s presence.

The star power of actors such as Salman Khan can help with big openings but the film ends up doing average business if audiences don’t find an emotional connection with the plot or characters, film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. Further, a lot of recent films don’t have the kind of popular music that creates a buzz before the release.

Even in the past, Yash Raj’s Aamir Khan-starrer Thugs of Hindostan had opened at 48 crore when released for Diwali in 2018, and then fizzled out, making 138 crore in India. The film had a budget of over 300 crore.

“The sale of other rights should ensure good recovery but as far as theatrical goes, the bar has been raised too high by films such as Jawan and Gadar 2," Johar said.

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