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Over Rs 300 crore rides on long weekend film releases, but will Bollywood fare well?

So far, Bollywood has not delivered the expected collections, exhibitors said, but Laal Singh Chadha and Raksha Bandhan could change the outlook for Hindi films.

August 11, 2022 / 05:10 PM IST
'Laal Singh Chaddha' is slated for a Baisakhi 2022 release. (Image: Twitter.)

'Laal Singh Chaddha' is slated for a Baisakhi 2022 release. (Image: Twitter.)

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Cinegoers will be spoilt for choice with two Hindi films and seven movies in other languages being released during the five-day long weekend starting August 11, which exhibitors said will set the tone for upcoming movies, especially from Bollywood.

There’s over Rs 300 crore riding on the films, said Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at INOX Leisure, referring to box office collections expected over the long weekend.

The Hindi films being released this weekend are Akshay Kumar-starrer Raksha Bandhan and Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chadha, which come to theatres after an almost two-year delay due to the pandemic. About eight films from the south will also hit the screens this weekend.

“There’s a strong line-up during the holiday period. Besides Hindi, there are two films in Telugu including Macherla Niyojakavargam releasing on August 12, and Karthikeya on August 13. Then there is Viruman in Tamil and Gaalipata 2, and Ravi Bopanna in Kannada. Overall, there are seven to eight regional films releasing this weekend along with two Hindi films,” said Jyala.

Holiday boost

“During festive and national holidays, the box office sees a big boost. The recent releases Bimbisara and Sita Raman recorded bigger numbers on the Muharram holiday (August 9) than their Sunday (weekend) business. It was 100 percent occupancy for the two films,” he said.

It’s one of the first and most-awaited long weekends, so advance bookings have been spread over all the days, said Rahul Puri, MD of Mukta A2 Cinemas, which operates multiplexes in 19 Indian cities. “We expect strong sales in anticipation of this long weekend. We have approximately 10 films releasing, which includes regional as well.”

It is important as a five-day weekend is rare, Ajay Bijli, chairman of PVR, said in a recent interview with Moneycontrol. PVR is the market leader in terms of screen count in India

Jyala expects occupancy to touch 70-80 percent in the southern markets during the long weekend. But in the north, he said occupancy may touch 45-50 percent, with the release of only two Hindi films – Laal Singh Chadha and Raksha Bandhan.

Bollywood below par

He expects the two films to open at about Rs 30 crore together, which is lower than the pre-Covid numbers when such films releasing on the same day would bring in Rs 40-50 crore. Yet, Jyala said the two films will have the best opening post-pandemic.

While multiplex operators PVR and INOX said advance bookings for the two films have been strong, analysts painted a different picture.

Abneesh Roy, executive director at Edelweiss Securities, pointed out that advance bookings for Laal Singh Chadha, the Hindi adaptation of Forrest Gump, had been poor, possibly because people are traveling over the long weekend and a social media campaign that called for a boycott of the film.

“Advance booking for both films (Laal Singh Chadha and Raksha Bandhan) is lower than other (Hindi) films like 83, Bhool Bhulaiya 2, and Samrat Prithviraj. Since both films have limited appeal and cater to audiences primarily in the metros, the advance booking being on the lower side is not surprising. Also, in the post-Covid scenario, audiences would tend to hold on for feedback on a film before making a decision,” said Gautam Jain, a partner at Ormax Media, a media consulting film.

He added that expectations are high from films including Viruman, Galipatta 2, Macherla Niyojakavargam and Karthikeya 2, which are releasing in the same period.

Even though the two Hindi films are backed by big stars, they are not expected to do pre-pandemic level business. Laal Singh Chadha is expected to do a lifetime collection of Rs 150-160 crore.

“Aamir Khan’s films have reported a collection of Rs 280 crore per film on the basis of the average of his last three films as a lead actor. Hence, if the above estimate of Laal Singh Chadha is reported, it will be considered below par, given the scale of the film,” said Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital. The film was made on a budget of Rs 180 crore.

The two films have got off to a slow start on an opening day, according to film trade analysts. Roy of Edelweiss noted that if word of mouth picks up, Laal Singh Chadha could see a revival in its box office business.

Box office expectations

The back-to-back holidays may be a crucial period for Bollywood, said, exhibitors.

“This is an important period, especially for Bollywood. Till now, barring a few films, Bollywood has not delivered the kind of collections that we expected. These films (Laal Singh Chadha and Raksha Bandhan) are important because they can change the outlook for Hindi films,” said Jyala.

The Hindi film box office business is estimated to decline 22 percent from pre-Covid levels in the second quarter of FY23.

“We expect pressure on metrics like average ticket price (ATP) and spend per head (SPH), which reported a sharp growth, 15-25 percent higher versus pre-Covid levels,” said Taurani. He added that ATP is likely to be back to pre-Covid levels in the near term.

PVR’s ATP rose 23 percent to Rs 250 in the quarter ended June from Rs 203 in Q1 of FY20, whereas INOX’s ATP increased to Rs 229 from Rs 217 in the same period.

Taurani expects the Hindi box office collections to grow 4 percent in FY23 from pre-pandemic levels despite a weak second quarter because the second half of the year is expected to be very strong with at least 12-14 films set for release.

“The growth momentum will continue in the box office business and this financial year will be the biggest year for the film industry,” said Jyala.

“We are ahead of pre-pandemic (box office numbers) despite Bollywood not performing that well. Now, Bollywood will also take part, and then we have regional films and big films like Liger, Brahmastra, and Ram Setu. For every festival period, there is a good line-up of content.”

In the January to June period of 2022, films in India collected Rs 5,565 crore at the box office, up from Rs 4,717 crore in 2018.

However, Ormax’s Jain said the momentum of the first half is unlikely to continue.

“There are not that many big-ticket, event, or spectacle films on offer in the second half, barring a couple like Brahmastra, across languages,” he added.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Aug 11, 2022 05:10 pm
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