'Inside The Box' is a series in which we will take a deeper-dive into the Box Office collections and web numbers of major films released across India.
Kabir Khan's 83 was one of the most-awaited films of 2021. Boasting an ensemble cast with the likes of Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Pankaj Tripathi, to name a few, the film looked like a potential blockbuster in waiting. With its release last Friday, right before the Christmas holidays, the theatres were expected to go abuzz once again, just the way it had for the previous week's releases, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Pushpa: The Rise. As things turned out, the film performed below expectations in its first weekend, collecting Rs. 45 crores nett, according to media consultancy firm, Ormax Media.
The film, made on a budget of Rs. 125 crore, registered Rs. 12.50 crore nett on its first day – much lower than Spider-Man (approx. Rs. 32.75 crore nett), which was released on a non-holiday Thursday and Akshay Kumar starrer Sooryavanshi (₹26 crore crore nett), which received mixed to negative reviews from critics. 83, on the other hand, had a widespread release in over 3741 screens – higher than Sooryavanshi's screen count of 3200. It also received mixed to positive reviews from critics all across the country. "That didn't translate in Box Office numbers though," says entertainment tracker Sreedhar Pillai. Expected to make a huge jump on Day 2, it saw a moderate increase of around 50%, which again was less for a film of this scale, released during the holiday season.
Several factors could've contributed to this, starting with ticket pricing. "The prices were at par or even higher than Sooryavanshi in some cinemas, which could have kept the audience away from the film," explains Gautam Jain, Partner at Ormax Media. Due to an expected Christmas rush, the prices averaged at Rs. 300 to 500 per ticket in several multiplexes across major cities (where the film found its maximum audience in), depending on whether the shows were 2D or 3D.
In single screens, the film drew negligible traction, with viewers opting to go for Spider-Man: No Way Home and Pushpa (Hindi) instead. Both films collected a healthy Rs. 26.75 crore nett and 10.25 crore nett respectively in their second weekends, as per Box Office India reports. "This is why many single screens even refused to screen the film," says Pillai. "The makers of 83 were pushing its 3D version to the single screens so that they could earn more. But many markets wouldn't accept this film when they had two steady films already."
Market competition aside, experts believe that a film like 83, a biographical sports film based on India's triumph at the 1983 World Cup, didn't serve as the kind of 'spectacle cinema' the audiences had been attracted to in the theatres since the pandemic. "Biopics, in today's time, are more suitable for a direct-to-OTT release," says Pillai. Originally scheduled to release as early as April 2020, the film faced a long-term delay owing to the pandemic. Had it released before Sooryavanshi in November, however, it could've worked better. "The timing wasn't right. A film like this either needed relevance – an ideal time would've been when the Indian team was actually playing a limited-over series – or it should've released as soon as the theatres in Maharashtra were re-opened," explains Pillai. This is also because Christmas films, for the audience, have had a more universal appeal. Take for example the last few releases on Christmas – Good Newwz (2019), Simmba (2018), Tiger Zinda Hai (2017) and Dangal (2016). They were all massive projects, a part of a big-ticket franchise and/or boasting of a larger-than-life superstar while being high on action, comedy or emotions. 83, being a biopic, and having a more linear, simplistic narrative, lacked this appeal.
It may also be worthy to note that for several viewers in a country like India, where cricket is hugely popular, the events of a film that largely focused on the cricketing moments may not have added much value to what they already knew.
With the Omicron scare spreading across the country and several states implementing night curfews again, the film is likely to have suffered from its consequences as well. With the largest amount of footfalls getting attracted in the 9 or 10 pm show, the film has lost out – and will continue to lose – on about 20% of a day's revenue. To add to its woes, the evening show suffers too, with the last show of the day beginning before even 7 pm to end well ahead of the curfew timings implemented.
While the film is expected to earn decent revenues from its eventual digital release, whether it's able to recover its costs or not is something only time can tell.