Diwali box office: Fireworks on OTTs, a few lights in theatres

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Updated: Nov 02, 2020 11:57 AM

Though producers have a slate of films, they apprehend viewers aren’t ready to visit the theatres just yet and could therefore prefer an OTT release.

Unfortunately, it will be a quiet Diwali for the theatres this time.Unfortunately, it will be a quiet Diwali for the theatres this time.

Bollywood releases on Deepawali 2020: Diwali has always been a time for big Bollywood releases, though over the years the excitement surrounding these has lessened. One recalls the clash between Saawariya and Om Shanti Om at the box office in 2007. Unlike a decade ago when we saw runaway hits, many have flopped in recent times – Thugs of Hindostan, Action Replayy, for instance, or even Ra.One, and Shivaay, which disappointed audiences.

Crowdpuller Akshay Kumar, whose comedy drama Housefull 4 scored big at the BO last year, will be seen in Disney+Hotstar’s Laxmii. In a sign of things to come, there’s more action this year on streaming platforms rather than in the theatres where so far just one film – Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari – is tipped for a release. Viewers can catch Rajkumar Rao’s Chhalaang on Amazon Prime Video while multi-starrer Ludo will be screened on Netflix.

Data sourced from Box Office India show that over the past decade, films released during Diwali have earned anywhere between Rs 100 crore and Rs 200 crore. Some of these were made on relatively modest budgets of Rs 50 crore, others were expensive at over Rs 100 crore. Though films are slated for screenings during other festivals or holidays like Eid, Independence Day and of late, even Raksha Bandhan, Diwali still counts as the biggest festival weekend for the theatres. The trend started way back in the 1960s, recalls Atul Mohan, editor at Complete Cinema, and gained momentum during the seventies. In fact, Shah Rukh Khan’s blockbuster movies of the 90s – Baazigar, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai – were all Diwali releases.

Unfortunately, it will be a quiet Diwali for the theatres this time. Though producers have a slate of films, they apprehend viewers aren’t ready to visit the theatres just yet and could therefore prefer an OTT release. A few are holding on and may release films during Christmas. Given that OTT players are willing to pay a good price as they build a subscriber base, producers have not lost out. Laxmii is believed to have earned close to Rs 150 crore in digital and satellite rights.

Ajay Shah, partner at EY, believes it will be a while before audiences feel mentally safe. “As and when the fear subsides and big films are screened, we will see revenge consumption as people are itching to step out. The timing of the release will not matter,” Shah said. He feels it is simply not possible for OTTs to replace theatrical releases for the huge slate of 2,000 annual releases. That may be true, but this Diwali much of the entertainment from Bollywood will be enjoyed at home.

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