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Mid-budget, content-driven films find it hard to pull audiences into theatres: Producer Ajit Andhare

The film producer explains why content-driven films find audiences on OTT platforms but fail in theatres

Mid-budget, content-driven films find it hard to pull audiences into theatres: Producer Ajit Andhare
Ajit Andhare

Last Updated: 04.59 PM, May 08, 2023


While the celebration of high-concept, content-driven films and shows continues, a visible struggle in the post-pandemic era is that many mid-budget films have turned out to be box office failures.

During an interactive session between film directors and producers at the FICCI Frames 2023, Ajit Andhare, the COO of Viacom18 Studios, spoke about how the growth of OTT platforms has affected box office collections of content-driven films, if and when they release theatrically.

Ajit said, "There is no doubt that there is clear segmentation now. If we want to watch premium content now, apart from theatrical releases, there is OTT content. Earlier, theatre was the only medium, because most of the content on network TV was not as high quality as we have now with web TV series. In the last 10 years, the kind of films that used to get good numbers at the box office were content-heavy, small films like Newton, which made Rs 80 crore at the box office. Now, they are finding it difficult to make such money in theatres. 

"Earlier, people had no choice but to go to theatres to watch good, content-driven films. Now that the opinion (of watching such content on streaming platforms) is available, consumers are exercising the choice to watch small- to medium-budget films as per their convenience.

"Therefore, a filmmaker has to offer a different value to consumers when it comes to the theatrical experience. Now, as producers, we paraphrase it as spectacle, which is one way of doing it." 

In the past, Viacom18 Studios produced and distributed films like Tanu Weds Manu, Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Kahaani, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Madras Cafe, Queen, Mary Kom, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, and Padmaavat, among others.

Explaining that in the recent past audiences have gone to theatres in huge numbers only to watch big-budget films, Ajit said, "There has been some obvious success with films like KGF, RRR, and Pathaan, but there are also films like Drishyam that saw a huge success at the box office. This is a classic case of how, at the end of the day, storytelling that hooks the audience to screens will see success, and that spectacle is not always the only way to bring audiences to theatres. So, audiences raising questions before investing their time to watch a film has made makers work harder to find ways to engage with audiences."

Asked about how the business of a theatrical release based on the budget has changed, Ajit added, "The difference is visible. Big-budget films are finding audiences in theatres, but mid-budget films are suffering. Today, if I want to release a film like Queen or Mary Kom, I do not think we can bring the number of people to theatres the way we did earlier. What I am trying to point out here is that a mid-budget, good-content film will always find its audience, but not necessarily the number of people in the theatre, because people prefer to consume them on streaming platforms."  

Recently, Viacom18 Studios and Tipping Point announced their upcoming films that will be released in theatres.

This includes films like the much-awaited Fighter that stars Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, the family drama Rocky Rani Ki Prem Kahani with Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, and the sequel to OMG – Oh My God!, OMG – Oh My God 2.

Along with such big-budget films, some content-driven films are also in the pipeline. The film Dhak Dhak, a coming-of-age journey of four unlikely women bikers starring Fatima Shaikh, Ratna Pathak Shah, Dia Mirza, and Sanjana Sanghi, directed by Tarun Dudeja, will be released this year.

A courtroom family drama, Shastry Vs Shastry, with Paresh Rawal, the Huma Qureshi-starrer Single Salma, and an intriguing thriller, Suspect, featuring Nana Patekar and Meezan Jaffery, are also waiting to be released.

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