Diwali releases have lost much of their magic over the years since 2007 when the Shah Rukh Khan-Deepika Padukone starrer Om Shanti Om and Sonam Kapoor-Ranbir Kapoor starrer Saawariya lit up screens across the country. Or when the evergreen Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge hit the theatres in October 1995 and audiences danced in the aisles. Indeed, almost every Yash Chopra film of the 1990s — Lamhe, Dil to Pagal Hai and Veer Zaara — was released during Diwali. Which is why the industry is keeping its fingers crossed that this time around, the long Diwali weekend will prompt viewers to flock to theatres. On offer are Aamir Khan Productions’ Secret Superstar and Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal Again starring Ajay Devgn in the lead role.
Collections from the two films are seen at a combined Rs 200- 250 crore. Last year’s releases were damp squibs — neither Dharma Productions’ Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) nor Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay fared too well. Box Office India’s data put the total collections at just Rs 98 crore, with ADHM earning Rs 78 crore. The optimism this year stems from the fact that previous Golmal films have been popular. “Golmaal Again is the fourth film from the popular franchise which has enjoyed mass appeal,” explained trade analyst Taran Adarsh. This is the third time a Golmaal film will see a Diwali release — in 2008, Golmaal Returns earned Rs 51 crore at the box office. In 2010, Golmaal 3 took in Rs 108 crore, beating the Akshay Kumar-Aishwarya Rai Bachchan starrer Action Replay, which earned just Rs 28 crore.
Jehil Thakkar, partner, Deloitte, points out that collections of ADHM and Shivaay did less business than Krrish 3 released in 2013 or Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Happy New Year in 2014. The distribution strategies for Golmaal Again and Secret Superstar, which also features Aamir Khan in a special appearance, are different. Golmaal Again will be released across some 3,500 screens across India. However, as Thakkar says, to begin with Secret Superstar may be released only in urban and semi-urban cities. “Depending on how the film fares the box-office, the distributor may release more prints,” he explained.
Multiplex operators too are hoping Diwali will be a good season. Analysts at research firm Edelweiss say that after a dull Q1 and Q2 FY18, when footfalls at major multiplexes were subdued, possibly because audiences did not appreciate the content, the current season could be better. Industry experts point out that unlike in the 1990s or early 2000s, several blockbuster films are released around Eid or Christmas or even Independence Day. Indeed, some of the biggest grossers have hit the screens during Christmas, with producers cashing in on the holiday season. In terms of collections, Eid has probably overtaken Diwali, say industry watchers. Nevertheless, the October-December period is turning out to be the best season for the film industry with attendance at its highest. Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures and chief of strategy, PVR, observes that during the festive season Hindi films contribute 70-75% to revenues while English films contribute 15%. In CY2016, the Indian film industry grew just 3% to reach Rs 14,230 crore, according to a Ficci-KPMG study. The contribution from domestic theatricals fell 1.6% to Rs 9,980 crore while cable and satellite rights also witnessed negative growth. Thakkar points out that with average ticket prices having stayed at Rs 183 in the past few years and few screens being added, screen owners haven’t seen an increase in revenues despite some big-ticket releases. “With a 4.5% rise in the ATP (average ticket price), theatres should clock better revenues,” he said.