In the 1970s and even 80s, two or more films releasing in a week and enjoying a meritorious run at the ticket window was a common sight. Video piracy didn't exist then and television [Doordarshan] never posed a major threat from the business point of view.
Films celebrated 25 weeks, 50 weeks and even 100 uninterrupted weeks in those days. Of course, Hindi films were never released simultaneously across India then. If a film would have its premiere release in Delhi-U.P. or Mumbai initially, it would open in Punjab next, followed by Rajasthan, Bihar, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, South after a couple of weeks. Having simultaneous releases was unimaginable in those days.
Cut to the present! Releasing two, three, four films in one week is considered professional harakiri. The power to sustain at the box-office has reduced over the years. That was evident last Friday, when three films [Anthony Kaun Hai?, Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar and Darwaza Bandh Rakho], starring known names all, opened to a mixed response.
Expectedly, Anthony Kaun Hai? had the best start of the three. The Munnabhai M.B.B.S. combo of Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi attracted footfalls at movieplexes and the opening ranged from 35% to 55% at various screens. Darwaza Bandh Rakho followed next, with a 15%-20% opening, while Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar had an embarrassingly low start [5%-10%].
The initial weekend was somewhat kind to Anthony Kaun Hai?, although the business is at best ordinary in some circuits and below average at places. Shaadi Karke Phas Gaya Yaar was slightly better at smaller centres of U.P., but overall disappointing. Darwaza Bandh Rakho didn't pick up, despite enjoying favorable reports from the paying public. However, the three films only went downwards from Monday onwards.
Did the three releases cut into each other's pie? Or were the moviegoers disinterested? In today's times, it doesn't make sense to have multiple releases in one week. But I wouldn't blame the producers for their decisions. Look at the flow of films till February 2007. Is there one vacant week? And, most importantly, where are the theatres? And with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna arriving next week, occupying the best [and maximum] screens, the forthcoming releases are sure to face the heat: an acute shortage of cinema halls in days to come.
The smaller films will be badly hit in the process. A number of low/medium-budget films are ready to hit the marquee, waiting for an opportune period. But looking at the number of biggies that are expected this year, a wide majority will have an unsung release or, perhaps, no release!
THIS WEEK, LAST YEAR
[Weekend: August 5-7, 2005]
There's a lull before the storm. That's precisely what the film industry witnessed one week before the keenly anticipated Mangal Pandey hit the screens.
A 'dry week' is unimaginable, considering the heavy flow of films week after week. On an average, the industry witnessed the release of three/four films per week since the start of this year and the trend is likely to continue till the year comes to a close. Hence, the release of just one film, in limited shows at four multiplexes of Mumbai, did come as a surprise. The film, Shwet - White Rainbow, was released with as good as nil publicity and its disastrous outcome, therefore, didn't come as a surprise.
There's no specific reason why no big film was released last Friday. Perhaps, the heavy downpour rang the bell of caution. Or, perhaps, the producers of the forthcoming releases preferred to steer clear of Mangal Pandey.