A lacklustre 2022 has shown Bollywood that it needs to go that extra mile to draw in the crowds again. With star power and the opening weekend rush failing to carry a movie beyond the first Sunday in the face of the strong content found on OTTs, the theatre game is not the same anymore.
The year—where even big names such as Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar, among others, failed to draw in cinemagoers—has seen a string of films from the South, especially Telugu and Kannada, give Bollywood a run for its money. The two recent successes in Hindi cinema—Drishyam 2, remade from Malayalam, and Kantara, dubbed into Hindi from Kannada—has further driven home the point. Drishyam 2 crossed Rs 200 crore in net collections, while Kantara came to Bollywood’s rescue during a below-par Diwali as it collected more than Rs 79 crore net in Hindi alone. Analysts estimate that the total collections of other Diwali releases in Hindi this year were 45 per cent lower than pre-Covid-19 levels.
“Pre-pandemic, `100 crore-plus was a given for many actor-driven movies. But that has changed with the onslaught of OTTs,” says Vivek Menon, Managing Partner of media and entertainment debt fund NV Capital, adding that Bollywood needs to focus on strong content so that word-of-mouth can help the movie to stay after the first weekend.
Tushar Dhingra, Founding CEO of Dhishoom Cinemas, says the trailer and music get the first leg of audiences. “So, Pathaan and Cirkus will open big. People are not going for any star. Who knew about Kantara or 777 Charlie? But they worked well,” he adds.
Bollywood usually contributes 40-45 per cent to India’s domestic gross box-office collections in a year. But the Hindi film industry has only contributed 33 per cent to the Rs 9,024 crore collected at the box office in India during January-October 2022, per consultancy Ormax Media’s ‘The India Box Office Report’. Even within that, more than a third has come from Hindi versions of south Indian films.
Menon says given the recessionary trends and the sword of inflation hanging on consumer spending, only quality films will reap the rewards of a prolonged theatrical run. Looking ahead, experts are betting on a big opening for Cirkus, set to release on December 23. In 2023, Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Pathaan is also expected to open big.
With the lessons of 2022, and a packed calendar in 2023, where superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan have lined up a number of films, Bollywood could see a reversal of fortunes, say experts. Akshay Kumar, who had back-to-back flops, and Ajay Devgn, too, have a host of releases lined up in 2023. Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt starrer Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, Director Luv Ranjan’s film with Ranbir Kapoor, Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar, and Kartik Aaryan’s Shehzada strengthen the line-up. “But the actual test for the movies is from the first Monday onwards,” says Menon.
Besides, Dhingra adds that there are enough cinema-dark cities and towns—which have no movie halls—where theatres should open their doors. “Opening more and more cinemas in Delhi, Gurugram and Bengaluru won’t help,” he says. All of that can mean only one thing for Bollywood: it’s time for, “Action!”
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