Pre-Diwali dull phase hits movie business

image I sincerely believe that 1960s and 1970s were the glorious years of Hindi cinema. Agreed, Hindi films were low on technique, but high on content. Film-makers emphasized on narrating novel stories most of the times. There was no bankruptcy of ideas then. Films clicked on merits. On the strength of their strong and solid content. Naturally, the ratio of hits was at an all-time high too [80% + successes].With the emergence of multiplexes in India, I am seeing a similar trend today. Newer stories are being told. Whether it’s a comedy-with-a-message [LAGE RAHO MUNNABHAI] or a romantic-comedy [PYAAR KE SIDE/EFFECTS] or the revival of Hrishikesh Mukherjee brand of cinema [KHOSLA KA GHOSLA], the moviegoer is being served a delightful and delectable fare almost every week.

The new release, WOH LAMHE…, is another example of cinema that dares to defy the stereotype. Cinema that doesn’t bow down to commercial diktats. Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt have consistently produced films that may not boast of big names, but are backed by powerful content nonetheless.

WOH LAMHE… too had its share of advocates when released last Friday. The opening ranged from average [Mumbai multiplexes] to very good [Delhi multiplexes] to dull [Indore], but the strong word of mouth helped it consolidate its position as shows progressed. Starting with a humble 30%-50% + opening, the occupancy at multiplexes showed a gradual increase by evening shows.

Saturday was better [65% +] and so was Sunday [80% +]. Monday was a national holiday [Gandhi Jayanti and Dashehra] and that helped WOH LAMHE… remain steady. Being a low cost film, its business at the multiplexes should ensure a quick recovery in some circuits, although, I personally feel, a more appropriate release period [say, post Diwali] would’ve only helped its business prospects. Let’s face it, the pre-Diwali weeks are always dull, from the business point of view. The holy month of Ramadan as well as college examinations make a dent in film business, what with a sizable chunk of movie-going audience staying away from movieplexes.

If WOH LAMHE… got the benefit of a 4-day weekend, the remaining two films, JAI SANTOSHI MAA and KRISHNA [animation], were given a royal ignore by the audiences from East to West, North to South. The fate of the two devotional films, although released during the festive season, was evident on Friday itself, when both opened to shockingly low collections [5%-10%] at almost all centres.

What surprises me is that JAI SANTOSHI MAA had worked in 1975 and a remake of the blockbuster hit was expected to draw audiences in the festive week. Similarly, with HANUMAN [animation] working big time at the box-office, everyone expected KRISHNA to follow a similar trend.

I attribute the failure of JAI SANTOSHI MAA not to its content, but the clutter of devotional subjects on the tube over the years. In 1975, there was no television, not many devotionals were made then either. So, coupled with the merits of the film, JAI SANTOSHI MAA had a dream run at the box-office, competing with the multi-starrer SHOLAY almost everywhere.

On the other hand, KRISHNA was just not lapped up by the kids, its target audience. HANUMAN also boasted of superior animation, besides the cute Baby Hanuman which became a hit with the audiences. That wasn’t the case with KRISHNA.

THIS WEEK IN 2005 [Weekend: September 30-October 2, 2005]

Six releases in one week: MAINE GANDHI KO NAHIN MARA, SISKIYAAN, KASAK, SAUDA – THE DEAL, RAIN and VISHWAS. If one estimates the total money riding on these films [including print cost and promotion], I’d say that approx. Rs. 13 crores were at stake this Friday. But looking at the disastrous start all films embarked upon at the box-office, you’d agree that something is wrong somewhere.

The business of all films, whether old or new, touches rock bottom in the pre-Diwali weeks and 2005 was no exception. The collections of a few films were in hundreds [not thousands] at some centres on Friday and Saturday. Just imagine!

THIS WEEK IN 2004 [Weekend: October 1-3, 2004]

The pre-Diwali weeks were playing havoc, with the occupancy at most movieplexes falling to 20%. TAUBA TAUBA, AK 47, POPCORN KHAO! MAST HO JAO and SATYA BOL hit the screens in the first week of October. TAUBA TAUBA did manage an encouraging opening at several places and this reasonably-priced film proved a profitable venture for its distributors.

As for POPCORN KHAO! MAST HO JAO, its fate was evident on the day of its release. SATYA BOL won critical acclaim, but that didn’t translate into big collections. As for AK 47, it was targeted at small centres mainly.

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