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Box office disasters add to pressure on Hindi film industry

The box office failure of many Bollywood films in quick succession is raising pressure on the Hindi film industry, after movies such as HIT: The First Case, Shamshera, Nikamma, Samrat Prithviraj and Shabaash Mithu failed to draw viewers.

According to trade experts, shows of some of these movies had to be cancelled for lack of viewers, with the films collecting only 70% of their potential. Many distributors are now not keen on releasing movies in single-screen cinemas.

Film distributor and exhibitor Sunny Khanna called film audiences impatient and restless. “Tastes and preferences of viewers have changed radically in past two-and-a-half years, and they are absolutely certain they don’t want to turn up at theatres to watch average fare,” he said. Knowing that a film will be available on a streaming platform within four weeks has also kept many away from cinemas, he said.

According to Khanna, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 that could have made ₹250 crore in theatres before covid ended its box office run at ₹185 crore, Karan Johar’s Jug Jug Jeeyo that could have crossed ₹100 crore, stopped at ₹85 crore, and Ayushmann Khurrana’s Anek that could have clocked ₹30-40 crore, managed only ₹8 crore.

Absence of big films may be hurting too. Before the pandemic, there were both big and new films in cinemas every week. But now, without frequent release of bigger titles or those that were expected to do well failing to do so, many new films are unnecessarily allotted multiple shows leading to frequent cancellations, Khanna explained.

Over the past month alone, Shabaash Mithu, HIT and Rashtra Kavach OM opened with ₹40 lakh, ₹1.35 crore and ₹1.50 crore respectively on their first days. Pravin Chalikwar, director of Priti Cinemas in Maharashtra’s Parbani said single-screen cinemas like his have hit rock-bottom in past two months with many distributors either not agreeing to showcase their films in small towns at all, or demanding hefty minimum guarantees.

“If I pay ₹1 lakh to screen a film for a week, the only way I can make profit is if the film collects at least ₹2 lakh. And it’s not like we don’t have any other expenses, we maintain our theatre like any multiplex, with air-conditioning, catering, staff salaries,” Chalikwar said. Other than Hindi films, single screens are at a disadvantage even with Hollywood content, he added, with studios demanding tickets to be priced at a minimum of ₹200.

Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said high ticket prices by top multiplex chains are hurting the business. “It’s like cinema is no longer meant for the common man,” Mohan said.

With ancillary streams of revenue such as satellite and digital helping producers recoup significant chunks of their investment, theatrical business is now contributing 30-35% of overall recovery for recent titles, compared to 60% pre-covid, said film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar. “The debacle of films like Shamshera has been numbing for the entire industry and this outright audience rejection is baffling especially because Hollywood films like Thor have managed a Rs. 65 crore opening weekend alone despite mixed word-of-mouth,” Johar pointed out. Live Mint

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