'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.
Ranveer Singh-starrer Jayeshbhai Jordaar, a small-town social-message dramedy centered on the issue of female infanticide, grossed just Rs 12 crore in its opening weekend. According to Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media consultancy firm Ormax Media, its lifetime business isn't expected to be much higher — around Rs 20 crore. While these collections are lower than what trade analysts expected, they're still in keeping with the trend of Bollywood movies underperforming at the box-office over the past few months. Take Shahid Kapoor sports drama Jersey, a remake of a Telugu film, which had a weak opening weekend of Rs 15.50 crore. Or action movie Attack, starring John Abraham, which was also off to a slow start at Rs 11.51 crore in three days.
"In the past two months, this has been the level at which most mid-range films, which are not franchise films or big-scale action films, have opened — around Rs 3 to 4 crore. They then go on to do Rs 10 to 12 crore," says Kapoor. "Now it is almost a norm that a Hindi film will not open well. With each new release, the surprise (of a low opening weekend) is reducing." He attributes this to the rise of streaming during the pandemic, which has now prompted audiences to become more picky about what they decide to go to the theatres to watch. Safe bets are films that have scale and spectacle, and are part of an existing franchise, he says, citing the box-office performance of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which grossed close to Rs 30 crore on its opening day, becoming the fourth biggest Hollywood opener in India, and KGF 2, which opened at a massive Rs 134-crore. The Kannada film's dubbed Hindi version set an all-time opening record of almost Rs 54 crore. Kapoor also credits the box-office performance of Gangubai Kathiawadi, which collected Rs 39 crore on its opening weekend, with the film's scope and grandeur.
Despite the heaviness of Jayeshbhai Jordaar's themes, Kapoor says they weren't a factor putting off audiences looking for escapist entertainment. "Nothing is opening well. Normally, a 'message-free' film like Heropanti would open at Rs 10 crore pre-pandemic. Now we see these films opening at Rs 6 crore. So it's happening across genres. Runway 34 is an Ajay Devgn film and it still opened at Rs 4 crore. Usually, Ajay Devgn films, like Drishyam, open at a minimum of Rs 7 crore. Now you're looking at half that."
Jayeshbhai Jordaar is the second Ranveer Singh movie in a row to underperform at the box office after cricket drama 83, which released last December. Made on a budget of Rs 125 crore, it grossed Rs 12.50 crore on its first day. Does this point to Singh's star power being on the wane? Kapoor says no, adding that the nature of star power itself has shifted and may no longer be enough to lure audiences to theaters. "People are looking for content and spectacle rather than stars," he says. "Earlier, you could count on an Ajay Devgn film or a Ranveer Singh film to have a certain opening. Now, an actor's fanbase or popularity isn't a factor anymore." He adds that 83's opening-day collections were on par for a sports drama, but only fell short because of the high expectations imposed on the film owing to its large budget.
He, however, adds that while the underperformance of Jayeshbhai Jordaar can't be taken as a sign of Ranveer's star power fading, 83's opening, which was four times that of Jayeshbhai, can't be attributed to the existence of this star power either. "It opened well because it's a sports drama based on a true story. We saw that with Dhoni too. Sushant Singh Rajput was not a huge film star, but that film opened well because Dhoni's equity came into play," he says.
Also factoring in to underperformance of recent Bollywood films is their lack of dubbed versions, compared to Hollywood films which release in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. The proliferation of OTT content in several languages has lowered the mental barrier to watching dubbed films and shows, according to Kapoor. "People in even the smallest towns of India have seen shows like Money Heist, in Hindi or Telugu," he says. An Ormax study, set to release next month, reveals that the average Indian paying for OTT content watches films and shows across 4 to 5 languages.
Films that Kapoor is optimistic about include Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, described as a 'spiritual sequel' to the 2007 movie, on track to open at Rs 9 crore, Akshay Kumar's historical drama Prithviraj, Forrest Gump remake Lal Singh Chaddha and superhero fantasy Brahmastra. The next two big Hollywood releases, in terms of box-office collections, are projected to be Jurassic World Dominion next month and Thor: Love and Thunder in July, both franchise installments.