'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.
The lull is over at the Indian box office – or so it seems. With three major releases over the past week – Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Gangubai Kathiawadi, Ajith Kumar's Valimai and Pawan Kalyan's Bheemla Nayak – it was fair to expect massive footfalls in the theaters across the country. And unsurprisingly, yet reassuringly, the cash registers went ringing with the films collectively earning well beyond Rs. 100 crores over the weekend. "It's been a big weekend. All three films have performed either as per expectations or beyond expectations. And when I say expectations, I mean as per the pre-covid standards," says Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures.
Alia Bhatt starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi, a much-awaited epic that had been seeing postponements since July 2021 due to the pandemic, earned Rs. 37.6 crores nett over the first three days of its release, as per Ormax Media. Opening at Rs. 9.8 crores on Day 1, the film saw a staggering 56% growth by Sunday, with an earning of Rs. 15.6 crores. What makes this even more impressive is that this has been Bhatt's best weekend at the box office, surpassing the initial three-day collections (33 crores) of her previous best, Raazi (2018) – a film released in the pre-pandemic times – by a long distance.
With several markets, including New Delhi, removing the Covid curbs and allowing 100% theatrical occupancies from Monday, the film is expected to continue having a steady growth. "Gangubai is picking up from day one because of its exceptional performances and good word of mouth," says Rajkumar Akella, Managing Director, Comscore Theatrical. Receiving majorly positive to mixed reviews across the country, the film is gaining traction for Bhatt's earnest performance and finally churning out a fleshed out, feisty female lead with a massy background score, otherwise very common for male leads.
Ajith's Valimai, again one of the most-anticipated Tamil language films, collected Rs. 34 cores on Day 1, with approximately Rs. 25 crores nett coming from Tamil Nadu alone – its primary market – beating Rajinikanth's Annaatthe (2021) to set new opening day records. In its 4-day run since its release last Thursday, it has, in fact, collected a gross of Rs. 100 crores already. On the downside though, due to the lack of good word of mouth, the film is seeing a gradual fall in terms of earnings. "Valimai's opening was tremendous but unfortunately, the content didn't work. It has seen a huge drop from second day. So, it's definitely not a very happy situation for everyone concerned."
Bheemla Nayak, starring Pawan Kalyan and Rana Daggubati, too, is creating quite the buzz. The film grossed Rs. 37.5 crores on its first day and a total of Rs. 76.5 crores over the weekend in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. "It's been one of the career-best revenues for Pawan Kalyan," says Akella. However, what also needs to be noted is that the film's earnings are also defined by its ticket prices – a factor that has been a crucial aspect of its performance in its key markets. "In Telangana, the government has allowed the multiplexes to charge a lot more. In fact, they have revised the prices and given a cap of Rs. 295 as the multiplex admission fee, which is substantially more than the films released in December and January," explains Akella. Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, the government has put a slab on the ticket prices in many places, which are substantially lower than earlier prices. Therefore, even if the footfalls have registered, the collections haven't.
At the outset, however, experts believe that despite all glitches, the implications of these successes are now expected to linger large across the film industry. The unpredictability of the pandemic had left several distributors and producers in the lurch, making them question of profitability of theatrical releases time and again. The collections, however, have come as a welcome respite and will be certain to encourage filmmakers to release their films with lesser doubts and more conviction.
While star power has a role to play in the performance of all these films, the key takeaway from a crucial weekend like this is the importance of a target audience. All three films belonged to a different genre, catering to a diverse range of audiences as well as geographical areas. This led to a massive amount of people heading to the cinemas, without hampering the overall performance of any of the films involved. "This was the perfect release mix that you should ideally have in a particular week so that there is no clash between the films. They have served the interests of the exhibitors really well because all cinemas across the country, all regions are firing," says Gianchandani.
If Badhaai Do being a sleeper hit provided a sneak peek into the box office limping back to positive returns, the business of the three big releases last week has well and truly established that the appetite for theatricals is back among the masses. And with several releases coming up in the month of March, including Amitabh Bachchan's Jhund, Prabhas' Radhe Shyam and Akshay Kumar's Bachchhan Paandey, the timing couldn't have been any better.