'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.
Holiday cheer came in early for the Indian Box Office with theatres receiving heavy footfalls across the country over the past weekend. It started – and not unexpectedly so – with the latest Spiderman movie, Spider-Man: No Way Home. Starring Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch and Zendaya, the film received unanimous acclaim from critics and fans of the franchise and MCU alike. Released on a non-holiday Thursday, the superhero film recorded a massive opening day collection of Rs. 32.75 crore nett, as per Box Office India, and Rs. 108 crore nett over its 4-day weekend, as per Ormax India.
Notably, the film even surpassed the Day 1 numbers of Rohit Shetty's Sooryavanshi – released on a national holiday – making it the biggest opening day grosser in India since the beginning of the pandemic. "We can safely say that the occupancy is better than pre-pandemic occupancy rates of event films," says Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures. "The response to the film is a clear indication that it is back to business as usual for tentpole films."
Released in 3264 screens across the nation in Hindi, English, Tamil and Telugu, the film saw a wider release than Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which had a screen count of 2500+. This also helped in its advance bookings, which, as per Box Office India reports, collected a humungous 35 crore nett for the weekend by Friday.
A big element that makes Spider-Man such a legacy franchise in India is the nostalgia it stirs. Not only do the youth associate Holland with the superhero, but the franchise enjoys a fan-following across generations owing to the Sam Raimi-Tobey Maguire trilogy from the early 2000s, followed by the two The Amazing Spider-Man films starring Andrew Garfield. "This longevity of the franchise has ensured that the film and the character appeals to a wide age group, including families, not just kids or youth," explains Gautam Jain, Partner at Ormax Media. The popularity of the 90s animated series on the superhero along with the comics they were based on, only adds on to this factor. "We must recognize the fact that, in India, long before Marvel or any iteration of its universe, Spider-Man has been a fixture on our TV screens," acknowledges Gianchandani.
What makes the collections worthy of applause is the fact that its opening weekend collections managed to better the ones earned by the franchise's predecessors, that too at a time when the pandemic is still ongoing, and theatres in Maharashtra are still running at 50% occupancy levels. To put things into perspective, its previous venture, Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – also the highest-earning Spider-Man movie till December 2021 – had collected a lifetime gross figure of approximately Rs. 86 crore in India.
On Friday, the collections of Spider-Man saw a significant dip in terms of Box Office numbers. Of course, it managed to come back strongly over the weekend but one of the biggest reasons for the dip was considered to be the release of Pushpa: The Rise. Starring an exciting ensemble cast of Allu Arjun, Rashmika Mandanna and Fahadh Faasil, the film, directed by Sukumar (Rangasthalam, Arya 2), unlike its counterpart, was the start of a franchise. The first instalment of what is expected to be a two-part film, the action drama saw a thunderous opening weekend, grossing Rs. 173 crores worldwide – as announced by the producers of the film. In India alone, the film collected Rs. 106 crore over the first three days, as per Ormax Media.
The Telugu film was touted as a 'pan-India' project – an increasing trend these days, with upcoming big-budget films like RRR, Radhe Shyam and KGF Chapter 2 also following suit – and released across the country in various dubbed versions including Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi languages. Did it succeed in its intention though? Affirmative. The Hindi dubbed version has fared impressively, showcasing a steady growth over the weekend to collect Rs. 12 crore. That, on the outset, may look like a small number, but released in limited screens in the Northern states, the Hindi dubbed version of the film has managed to fare better than the weekend collections of recent releases like Bunty Aur Babli 2 and Satyameva Jayate 2 – films specifically catering to the Hindi-speaking audience. "Pushpa's dubbed version in Hindi has received good growth over the weekend and has held very well on Monday as well," says Jain. "The Monday collections (Rs. 4 crore nett) are better than its Friday numbers (Rs. 3.30 crore nett) at most places."
A primary reason behind this is the saleability of Telugu films in current times. With Box Office hits like Vakeel Saab, Jathi Ratnalu, Love Story and Uppena in 2021 itself, the Telugu film industry is booming irrespective of the pandemic. "The Telugu industry enjoys a huge fanbase. Today, their stars are much bigger among the audiences. The Box Office collections of a big-hero Telugu film is higher than ever because they have found a regular set of audience," explains entertainment industry tracker Sreedhar Pillai.
The theatrical popularity of dubbed versions started off with the successes of Baahubali (2015), Baahubali 2 (2017) and KGF Chapter 1 (2018) – all released in multiple Indian languages. They helped in establishing a loyal fanbase for big-screen spectacles across the country, irrespective of the original language of the film. Pushpa, too, belonging to a similar genre of cinema, is clicking big time, especially with the single-screen audience in the North.
Allu Arjun too is a big name in the northern circuits, owing to the popularity of the dubbed versions of his films like Arya 2 (2009) Sarrainodu (2016) and Naa Peru Surya, Naa Illu India (2016), to name a few, on satellite TV. However, that alone, isn't what makes a pan-India project. Pushpa has managed to strike a chord with the audience because of other factors too. "Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham was a colossal failure, even though Mohanlal is a top star and a great actor," explains Pillai. "For a film to be a 'pan-India film,' the subject needs to have a universal appeal. It needs to have an action base and a little bit of Indian sentiment – emotions we grew up with and are familiar with. The hero alone doesn't make a film work – the emotional connect needs to be strong."
For such 'universal' projects, the secret seems to lie in formulaic commercial cinema: a big-scale film with a known, 'larger-than-life hero' embroiled in a classic battle of good vs. evil, only to rise above all odds. It's familiar territory, but might just be the need of the hour to achieve nationwide box office success.