For all its hype, star power, and anticipation, Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan-starrer Vikram Vedha opened to a rather underwhelming first day nett domestic collection of just over ₹10 crore. In comparison, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 netted ₹14.50 crore on its opening day. The film may still recover given the good reviews it has but many would wonder why the collections remained lower than expectation. For that, one barely needs to see how the Hindi film industry’s understanding of ‘festive’ releases has changed this year, and not for better. Also read: Vikram Vedha box office: Hrithik, Saif’s film opens at around ₹10 crore
Technically, Vikram Vedha is a festive release. It hit the theatres during Navratri, a time of celebration nationwide. Same could be said for Raksha Bandhan and Laal Singh Chadha, both of which released in theatres on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, or Bachchhan Paandey, which hit the screens on Holi. But traditionally, none of these festivals have been known for big ticket releases.
Before the pandemic, traditional festive releases stuck to Diwali, Eid, Christmas and New Year, or even dates like Valentines Day. The idea was that these are the festivals where people like to go out and spend money, which is why they could turn to a multiplex or a theatre. But Raksha Bandhan, Holi, or Navratri aren’t those days.
Film trade analyst Atul Mohan says, “Navratri is celebrated differently in different parts of the country, whether is Garba nights, Durga puja, or Ramleela. Each of these are places where youngsters and families go. They don’t go for evening shows of movies but to these places. That actually harms footfall in halls, rather than helping it. It’s traditional wisdom in the industry, which people are abandoning now. And it shows in the films’ fates.”
The evening and night shows of Vikram Vedha registered only 16-25% occupancy nationally. In centres like Ahmedabad, where Navratri celebrations are a huge deal, the number was as low as 10%. On rakhi, both Laal Singh Chadha and Raksha Bandhan faced a similar fate, as their morning shows had just 10-15% occupancy. That’s because the festival of Raksha Bandhan sees families get together in their homes in the first half of the day. Very few go out for movies.
The most striking example of this is Holi, when almost the entire north India is virtually closed for the first half of the day. Morning shows of Bachchhan Paandey, which released the previous day, had 11% occupancy, which increased to a healthy 36% by evening. In places like Bhopal and Lucknow, there were hardly any people in the theatres to watch Bachchhan Paandey on Holi morning.
An exhibitor from Delhi says, “These festivals actually reduce the earnings of films by 20-25%. Vikram Vedha could have reached ₹15 crore if its release was pushed by just a week, to coincide with Dussehra.”
The current understanding that all festivals are good for business needs some re-evaluation. Chances are that filmmakers and production houses are pressed for release dates post pandemic as many pending films gear for release as well. In that bid, they are trying to make the most of it by trying out ‘newer’ festivals for release. But as evidence shows, such tinkering does more harm than good.