The R100-cr club

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Feb 1 2012, 10:53am hrs
Even as the Agneepath producers and actors (Karan Johar, Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra) were celebrating the success of a record opening, R25 crore gross, reports were coming in of a dramatic fall in collections on day two, though it picked up on the crucial first weekend, and grossed R65 crore, delighting the whole industry. In 2011, Salman Khans Bodyguard had collected R21 crore on day one and was one of the top grossers of the year with R148 crore at the domestic box office.

Agneepath had a buzz around it for various reasonsit was a remake of a cult Amitabh Bachchan film (which incidentally flopped at the box-office); Karan Johar was producing it (his father had produced the Bachchan film and had been hit because of its bad business); the Katrina Kaif item song Chikni Chameli was rising up the music charts; the Hrithik-Priyanka chemistry and Sanjay Dutt as the bad boy.

So, will Agneepath join the R100 crore club And are these numbers for real When producers of Don 2 put out ads that the film had grossed over R200 crore, there were sceptical voices all around. Insiders say that while producers are not bound to give out the collections from satellite, music, overseas, digital rights, which now contribute almost 50% to a films revenues, box office collections are easier to collate and give out. Most of the exhibitors have automated the ticketing, so box office collections cannot be fudged. As for Agneepath, which released with high expectations that it would be the years first blockbuster, trade analysts wont comment on collections yet, but overseas and some domestic territories distributor Eros International feels the film is well on its way to get into the R100 crore bracket. According to CFO Kamal Jain, the film did fantastic business on day one and followed that up with a good weekend showing. Nowadays, release dates are planned months in advance and the marketing and distribution strategy worked out in detail. For instance, we held a premiere in Dubai where Hrithik Roshan was present; the film opened well in this key overseas market, he adds.

But whats also becoming clear is that hype or an item song or a big name alone will not help to make a film work at the box office. For Agneepath, by day two itself, the Hindi heartland, where it was supposed to have done really well, saw a 50% fall in collections. Exhibitors said the films collections hadnt dropped dramatically only in the Maharashtra region. But with no other big movie releasing in the next two weeks, exhibitors are sticking with Agneepath and attendance did dramatically rise again over the weekend.

The year had begun badly for Bollywood. The first big release of the year, Players, a Viacom 18 production, didnt do as well as expected at the box office with net collections said to touch R30 crore, which would not cover costs. Last year, a smaller film, UTVs No One Killed Jessica, released in January, grossed around R40 crore on a budget of R9 crore.

With so much variety and choice on offer, a film has to be entertaining to do well at the box office, admits Siddharth Roy Kapur, CEO, UTV Motion Pictures, which saw success with different films like No One Killed Jessica and Delhi Belly last year. Actually, 2011 will go down in Bollywood history as a watershed year, says Kapur, because films of all genres, all scales worked, niche to formula, from a Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara to a Bodyguard, Delhi Belly to The Dirty Picture.

Several breached the R100 crore mark in the domestic market including Bodyguard, Ready (R121 crore), Ra.One (R114 crore), Singham (R102 crore), Don 2 (R110 crore), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (R152 crore worldwide gross). One of the biggest successes of 2011 was, of course The Dirty Picture, a mid to high budget film which grossed over R125 crore worldwide. And though Ra.One did cross the R100 crore mark in box office collections in the domestic market, it didnt do as well as expected because it had got the widest possible launch having released in over 3,000 screens.

Reliance Entertainment CEO Sanjeev Lamba says with Singham, Bodyguard and Don 2 crossing the coveted R100 crore mark, we couldnt have asked for more. Reliance is backing Aamir Khans Talaash this year and a host of Hindi and regional films. According to Ashesh Jani, partner, Deloitte, Haskins and Sells, With recent mid budget releases doing reasonably well, it seems that 2012 could well be the year for such medium budget productions. High budget ones have not fared well in the last year and maybe that will put off production houses from putting in big money into such productions.

Eros Jain says even three years ago, only one film would get past the R100 crore mark, in 2011 we had a handful soon Bollywood will see R400 crore worth of collections at the box office. We are more organised, we are paying a lot more attention to the storyline, release date, distribution and its beginning to pay off.

As one insider put it, if Ra.One crossed the R100 crore mark, its because it got a wide release and earned 70% of the box office revenues on day one and the opening weekend itself. But for a sustained run at the box-office, producers and distributors, stars and filmmakers are now aware that the movie goer is more discerning than ever and only an entertainer will work at the box office, not the star cast alone.