While there are the OTT options for those who don’t want to step out, Thakkar says there are many who don’t mind the trouble of going to the theatre to get a larger-than-life experience.
There was a time when Diwali releases drew big audiences and families watched a film together; it was one of the many rituals of the festive season. With the content from Bollywood now less focussed on what’s called a ‘family entertainer’ and more on stories for smaller niche audiences — the fallout of more nuclear families perhaps — not everyone wants to catch a Diwali release.
As Ajay Gupta, partner, AT Kearney, points out, films are no longer an outing for the family like they were perhaps 10 years ago because the themes today are less generalised and more niche. “Thematically, Bollywood content is changing and in some ways, every film is targeting a different audience,” Gupta points out, adding that the number of occasions when the family goes to the theatre is fewer .
This year, though, the big-budget Housefull 4 may just bring in the families. Though 2019 has been the year of small films, film expert Taran Adarsh is convinced Akshay Kumar can pull it off with Housefull 4. “While a festival alone cannot guarantee success, the ratio of hits during Diwali has been very good,” says Adarsh who believes 2019 will end up as the best year for Bollywood since 2015.
Looking back, Diwali releases have had mixed luck. Om Shanti Om released in 2007 was a big hit and Golmaal Again in 2017 was well-received. On the other hand, Jab Tak Hai Jaan from the house of Yash Raj Films, released in 2012, didn’t do as well as expected. Ra.one with Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor, released in 2011, fared badly, failing to recover the budget of Rs 130 crore, as did Thugs of Hindostan, which was released in 2018. In fact, in the last 10 years, Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal Again was the only Diwali release to have crossed the Rs 200-crore mark at the box office.
While rising ticket prices at multiplexes — up from an average Rs 178 in 2014-15 to Rs 207 in 2018-19 — have become a spoiler, they may not be a factor during the festive season. Jehil Thakkar, partner at Deloitte, believes higher ticket prices are not a dampener. He points out that films such as Mission Mangal and Dream Girl have tasted success at the box office.
If at all, footfalls are fewer during Diwali, Thakkar attributes it people from urban India taking vacations. “A big part of box office collections continues to come from the metros,” Thakkar explains.
While there are the OTT options for those who don’t want to step out, Thakkar says there are many who don’t mind the trouble of going to the theatre to get a larger-than-life experience. “The industry will adjust itself to making movies that are more big screen-worthy like super-hero movies as in the West,” Thakkar adds. However, it is true that for genres such as dialogue-heavy drama, OTT platforms are fast becoming the preferred choice for viewers.