The audience across the country is making their intent crystal clear with each passing disaster at the box office. Films worthy of a big-screen experience are outperforming, while low budget films – even those with acceptable content, are facing outright rejection.
When ‘Sarkar Raj’ released in theatres back it 2008, it actually opened very well at the box office – collecting Rs 5.1 crore on Day 1. Ghajini opened to 9.5 crore on the first day, Singh Is Kingg collected 7.2 crore, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi opened at 6.75 crore and Golmaal Returns took a start of around 6 crore. So a Sarkar Raj opening to 5.1 crore compared well to some of the biggest films of 2008.
But the third film in the series has collected less than Rs 2.5 crore on Day 1, when big films are now crossing the 40 crore mark on a single-day.
The story is similar for the other release this week, Meri Pyaari Bindu. There was hardly any interest to watch the film, even though the promos promised an unusual looking romantic comedy.
The fate of other small or niche films have been no different this year – Begum Jaan with an acclaimed actor like Vidya Balan evoked no interest. Phillauri featuring one of the industry’s top female stars didn’t do well either. Rangoon, which had three talented actors, couldn’t even recover its marketing costs from theatrical business. Ok Jaanu opened poorly and failed. All of these films had face-value, but what they completely lacked was scale, substance and universal appeal.
The era of niche multiplex films is coming to an end. Unless the films are outstanding – like a ‘Piku’, ‘Pink’ or ‘Kapoor & Sons’ – the audience isn’t interested anymore. But even those films aren’t collections much more than 70 crore at the box office.
The only films that have worked this year – not including the Telugu film ‘Bahubali 2’ – were all star driven. ‘Badrinath Ki Dulhania’ featured two of the most promising young actors in the industry and the dependable Akshay Kumar carried ‘Jolly LLB 2’ through. The other films to get to a respectable total, even though they were under-performers, were ‘Raees’ and ‘Kaabil’.
Online streaming websites like Netflix could also be affecting the business of small films. When a monthly subscription of Netflix costs Rs 500 with unlimited streaming of films and tv-series, along with various other entertainment options both on the internet and television – why would the audience spend on theatre outings, which cost no less than Rs 1000 for a couple or Rs 2000 for a family of 4?