Akshay Kumar's latest release, Samrat Prithviraj, by the looks of it, will close at a lifetime box-office collection of Rs 100 crore. On an estimated budget of over Rs 150 crore, that is a letdown given the hype around the project, its star cast and a banner like Yash Raj Films producing and distributing it. Some states making the film tax-free was meant to help but that has not really taken place.
The day of the release (on Friday, 3 June) saw the film bring in Rs 10.70 crore, followed by Rs 12.6 crore and an estimated Rs 16 crore for Saturday and Sunday respectively, taking the collection for the critical three-day window to Rs 39 crore. The thumb rule in Bollywood is that the lifetime collection is typically 2.5x of the opening weekend. Take the case of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, which saw collections of Rs 56 crore for the first three days and Rs 155 crore so far.
It has not been an easy period for Bollywood with a spate of failures such as Attack: Part 1, Heropanti 2, Runway 34, Jersey, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Dhaakad and Anek. The silver lining was Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 and with Samrat Prithviraj not hitting the mark, the pressure is again palpable. Trade analyst, Taran Adarsh admits this "is a crucial phase with the industry needing big-ticket successes." The prominent releases on the anvil are Jugjugg Jeeyo and Rocketry: The Nambi Effect before the release of Laal Singh Chaddha, the official remake of Forrest Gump starring Aamir Khan.
Multiplex owners are clear that it is only good content that can bring in the crowds.
"On the opening Friday, it is the marketing push with the star's presence that brings in the crowds. Beyond that, it is only content and nothing else," says Amit Sharma, MD, Miraj Cinemas, a multiplex chain with 160 screens. He cites the examples of Dharmaveer, a Marathi film and Saunkan Saunkne in Punjabi as examples of how good content has managed to bring in the audience. "Likewise, Major has worked in Telugu and Vikram too is a success in Tamil."
Privately, distributors and exhibitors speak of how Bollywood has got on to the OTT bandwagon in a big way since it brings them big revenue upfront.
"It has a negative impact on theatrical revenue since the producer has no skin the game," says a distributor, who quickly adds that a Hindi film is on OTT four weeks after its release, leaving nothing on the table for anyone else.
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