Last Updated: 12.28 PM, Nov 07, 2022
NEW DELHI: The festival season this year, topped by the Diwali weekend, could not light up the box office for Hindi cinema which saw business down nearly 50% when compared with pre-covid years. Two big films Ram Setu and Thank God garnered weak collections, together making a little over ₹90 crore at last count. Before covid, it was common for two big films to clock at least ₹200 crore on a festival weekend.
On Diwali 2019, ensemble comedy Housefull 4 had made ₹205.60 crore at the box office, supplemented by smaller films like Saand Ki Aankh and Made in China. In 2018, Yash Raj Films’ period drama Thugs of Hindostan released around Diwali had earned ₹48.27 crore on its first day. In contrast, Ram Setu and Thank God had opened to ₹15 crore and ₹7.50 crore this year. Thugs of Hindostan had slowed down later though.
“This is the dullest Diwali ever for Hindi cinema. It’s clear that audiences have become very quality conscious post covid and mounting big projects that don’t have anything new to say, is not going to work anymore,” film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. That Kannada film Kantara and Hollywood flick Black Adam were going strong despite viewers turning selective, is proof that Hindi films are no longer considered attractive enough for viewers to come to cinemas for.
Trade website box Office India pointed out that holiday weekends have thrown up disastrous results for Bollywood through this year. While Eid in April saw Heropanti 2 and Runway 34 make Rs. 58 crore together, the Independence Day weekend in August registered all-time low collections with Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chadha and Akshay Kumar’s Rakshabandhan bringing only Rs. 105 crore.
Film producer and distributor Sunny Khanna said the situation is particularly desperate for single screen cinemas which can only play one film at a time and are at a complete loss if it fails. “Unlike them, multiplexes are seeing at least one of the four new films playing in their screens at one time, either Hollywood or regional, doing well. But single theatres can’t survive if they have to wait for a month to see a hit,” Khanna said. He attributed the failure of Diwali releases to content finding little resonance with audiences when producers are in a rush to put films with big stars together. “The presumption is that getting top names on board will help secure satellite, digital and music deals,” Khanna pointed out.
To be sure, the response has been poor to Hindi cinema in the overseas market too except for the superhero flick Brahmastra that has grossed $12 million abroad since its September release.
“Small scale films, not just in Hindi, haven’t been able to grab eyeballs abroad yet. The overseas market had always been lucrative for big star films but mid-scale movies had begun penetrating before covid. It could still be another year before the overseas market resumes normalcy,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.