Monday, November 28, 2011

What's The Point?

By Anant Mathur (November 28, 2011)

At the end of some films viewers are often left scratching their heads, wondering what was the point of making this particular film? When making a film, it's extremely important for filmmakers to get to the point by the time the film comes to the end. Every film, regardless of how predictable it is, must have a point - the reason why the film was made. Sadly, most films today are not only predictable but the real downer is that they make no point - there's no reason for them to exist, and thus they're not worth watching again.

Take films like Pyaasa, Chupke Chupke, Gol Maal, Sholay or Padosan - these are classics and can be watched over and over - why? Because they have a point, in Sholay good eventually triumphs over evil. In Padosan, boy gets girl and how. Parimal is able to fool his Jija ji in Chupke Chupke. In Pyaasa, Vijay dreams of getting his poems published but has to pay a stiff price in order to get his wish. Ramprasad will go to any lengths to keep his well paying job in Gol Maal.

In more recent times films like 3 Idiots, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Munna Bhai MBBS, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, Ready and Lagaan are films that make a point and entertain at the same time. In the case of 3 Idiots the film makes several points. In DDLJ love triumphs above all. Munna teaches everyone that there's more to being a doctor than writing prescriptions in Munna Bhai MBBS. K3G is all about loving your parents. In Kaho Na Pyaar Hai, true love is so powerful no one can destroy it. Love conquers all in Ready. Lagaan takes us on a historical journey through our favourite sport.

Don't get me wrong making is a point will not turn a film into a hit by any means, a film also needs chemistry between the cast, a great story, powerful dialogues, enjoyable music and above all, luck. But along with all these thing, successful films also make a point or in rare cases several points...

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The First Weekend!

By Anant Mathur (November 20, 2011)

Over the last few months a new trend has begun in Bollywood - the first weekend collections. Although the first weekend has been important to films for the last couple of years, these days the first weekend of a big film has become crucial, it's the first 3 days (or 5 days for extended weekends) which dictate success or doom for a film. The simple reason behind this trend is that films are released with a massive number of prints and the public is able to see the film in the first weekend. 

For the last several months every big film has released on at least 2000-2500 screens (or in the case of Ra.One - a record setting 3500 screens) and most of their business is done in the first weekend, rarely do films get past the 2-3 week run nowadays.

Before 2009 films were released on a maximum of 1000 screens in rare cases big films were released on 1200 or 1400 screens and hit films would do a business of 8-10 weeks. In the 1990s films were released on a maximum 200-300 screens - this is why films like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun..! went on to be golden jubilees. Hum Aapke Hain Kaun..! was also the first Hindi to run in mainstream cinema in U.S.A., UK and other parts of the world and created records unheard of before. It ran for over 50 week in London and Toronto - the first Hindi film to do so. HAHK also takes the credit for reviving the theatrical release of Hindi films abroad.

When films were released on 1000 screens or less, many Houseful signs were seen in cinema halls because demand exceeded supply and those people who couldn't see the film in the first week came back in the following weeks. But when a film is released on over 2500 screens supply exceeds demand and Houseful boards become a rareity. If you look at the collections of 3 Idiots, the film ran successfully for 8 weeks with less than 50 percent weekly drop. Now compare this to this years big releases Bodyguard and Ra.One which were released on 2700 and 3500 screens, respectively, and you will realize that the drop for these films were more than 80 percent in the second week and the films were done by week 3 or 4.

One thing I want to point out is that in today's times most producers don't lose any money in a film. When they sell a film it's sold for more than the budget, distributors are never shown where or how the money was spent. So if a producers claims the film cost 50 crores or 150 crores distributors blindly believe him because they haven't seen the film, meanwhile, the film might have cost the producer 10 crores to make and he claims it cost 40 crores. When a producer sells his film it's for more than the actual cost of the film (he has to make a profit), so a distributor might pay 40 crores for a film that cost 35 crores to make.

To the common man it may not matter how one film performs but it has a drastic effect on the industry. When a big film like Ra.One is released - the first Shahrukh Khan film to release in 20 months and it doesn't make any money for anyone but SRK, then there's something wrong with the system. It's not about just one film or one star but the industry as a whole - it would be wonderful if every film was a hit but that hardly seem possible in today's scenario.

Nowadays the business of films has become 1-2 weeks long and this really hurts the industry because films like Rockstar (released on 2500 screens) and Mausam (released on 2200 screens) which have big budgets are not able to recover their cost. Gone are the days of silver and golden jubilees, now it's the first weekend that counts and soon it'll be the first day...

Below is a list of the ten Highest Grossing Bollywood films and their weekly performance at the box office including the percentage they dropped each week. As you can see films that were released on less than 2000 screens had less of a drop and lasted more weeks than films released on 2000+ screens. This is because when a films is released on 2500 screens the audience sees it in the first week because everyone is able to get tickets in the opening week.

3 IDIOTS (released on 1200 Screens)
Week 1 - 79.0 Crores
Week 2 - 54.5 Crores (31% drop)
Week 3 - 30.0 Crores (45% drop)
Week 4 - 16.5 crores (45% drop)
Week 5 - 10.0 Crores (40% drop)
week 6 - 5.0 Crores (50% drop)
week 7 - 3.0 crores (40% drop)
week 8 - 2.0 crores (33% drop)
Total - 200 Crores

BODYGUARD (released on 2700 Screens)
Week 1 - 114.61 Crores
Week 2 - 21.5 Crores (81% drop)
Week 3 - 9.04 Crores (58% drop)
Week 4 - 2.25 Crores (75% drop)
Total - 147.39 Crores

DABANGG (released 1400 Screens)
Week 1 - 81.5    Crores
Week 2 - 36.0 Crores (56% drop)
Week 3 - 16.0 Crores (55.5% drop)
Week 4 - 6.0 Crores (62.5% drop)
Week 5 - 1.0 Crores (83% drop)
Total - 140.5 Crores

READY (released on 1850 Screens)
Week 1 - 69.50 Crores
Week 2 - 32.25 Crores (53.5% drop)
Week 3 - 13.55 Crores (58.0% drop)
Week 4 - 4.25 Crores (68.5% drop)
Week 5 - 1.00 Crore (76.5% drop)
Total - 120.55 Crores

GHAJINI (released on 1400 Screens)
Week 1 - 64.0 Crores
Week 2 - 28.0 Crores (56% drop)
Week 3 - 14.0 Crores (50% drop)
Week 4 - 7.0 crores (50% drop)
Week 5 - 2.5 Crores (64% drop)
week 6 - 1.5 Crores (60% drop)
week 7 - 0.5 crores (67% drop)
Total - 117.5 Crores

RA.ONE (released on 3500 Screens)
Week 1 - 97.47 crores
Week 2 - 15.27 crores (84% drop)
Week 3 - 1.36 crores (91% drop)
Total - 114.33 Crores

GOLMAAL 3 (released on 1400 Screens)
Week 1 - 62.5 Crores
Week 2 - 32.0 Crores (49% drop)
Week 3 - 9.0 Crores (72% drop)
Week 4 - 2.5 Crores (72.0% drop)
Week 5 - 1.0 Crore (60% drop)
Total - 107 Crores

SINGHAM (released on 2000 Screens)
Week 1 - 51.25 Crores
Week 2 - 26.34 Crores (49% drop)
Week 3 - 11.5 Crores (56% drop)
Week 4 - 6.5 Crores (43% drop)
Week 5 - 3.75 Crore (42% drop)
Week 6 - 1.25 Crore (67% drop)
Total - 100.59 Crores

RAAJNEETI (released on 1800 Screens)
Week 1 - 54.50 Crores
Week 2 - 24.00 Crores (56% drop)
Week 3 - 8.00 Crores (67% drop)
Week 4 - 5.00 Crores (37.5% drop)
Week 5 - 1.75 Crore (65% drop)
Week 5 - 0.50 Crore (71% drop)
Total - 93.75 Crores

ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA (released on 1800 Screens)
Week 1 - 42.19 Crores
Week 2 - 18.88 Crores (55% drop)
Week 3 - 12.20 Crores (35% drop)
Week 4 - 6.21 Crores (49% drop)
Week 5 - 3.56 Crore (43% drop)
Week 6 - 2.14 Crore (40% drop)
Week 7 - 1.07 Crore (50% drop)
Week 8 - 23.32 Lakhs (78% drop)
Total - 86.48 Crores

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tip # 50: Zero Expectations

By Anant Mathur (November 12, 2011)

Today films are marketed so much that before we ever get to a movie theater we unconsciously develop certain expectations from the film. And if it doesn't rise up to our expectations we resent it. I feel marketing is given too much importance, in many cases, it is more important than the content itself. It's almost as if filmmakers believe the audience is full of fools, it doesn't matter what you give them as long as you can sell a ticket and get them to the theater. For the last several years films have disappointed me so much that now whenever I go see a film in a movie theater I go with "Zero Expectations"

By Zero Expectations, I mean that I don't expect the film to be any good, this way if I enjoy it, then it must truly be good and if I feel the film is no good, it must be truly terrible because I didn't expect it to be good, but it still disappointed me and fell below that. 

Before deciding on watching a film, I usually watch a trailer of a film and if it looks interesting I go see it. For example, Yamla Pagla Deewana and Dabangg had such powerful trailers that I immediately wanted to go see them. When I watched the trailers of 3 Idiots, it didn't excite me like Yamla Pagla Deewana or Dabangg, but it was able to convince me enough to give it a try. Before watching 3 Idiots I was fairly sure it would disappoint me, but to my surprise, I rather enjoyed the film and have watched it many time since then.

Over the years I have seen thousands of films in several languages (Hindi, English, Gujarati, Marathi, German, Spanish, Italian, French, etc.) so, I'm not looking for anything original, all I expect from films today is that they will entertain me for the 2-2.5 hours I'm there. There was nothing original about the Munna Bhai Series, Yamla Pagla Deewana, Dabangg, Main Hoon Na, Sholay, Ready, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai, or Bodyguard, but they did entertain the audience for 2-2.5 hours.

There are several ways filmmakers lure the audience into a movie theater. The most common is probably the music, it's commonly believed that if your film has hit music half the battle is won - hit music will compel the audience to buy a ticket. 

From the beginning of Bollywood 'till about 10 years ago, it didn't matter how good or bad a film was, one thing you were guaranteed was a hit soundtrack. Today, because music has become a marketing tool a hit soundtrack is very rare. Now, a film usually has just one song or an item number which become the rage and sell the film to its audience (like Chammak Challo, Sheela Ki Jawani or Character Dheela). Very rarely do we see a complete soundtrack which is enjoyable from the first song to the last (ie. Veer-Zaara, Dabangg, 3 Idiots or Lagaan).

Seeing as many films as I have, I understand what's out there and when I write I know what I can't use. For example, I know it's not a good idea to use sex jokes, fat jokes or race jokes because the audience has heard them all, unless I can present them in a new way there really is no point, especially in the "politically correct" world of today. As a writer it is your responsibility to give the audience what they want... Entertainment! Whether it's through entertaining dialogue, comic scenes or action sequences that's up to you. When the audience leaves a movie theater they should feel that the film has exceeded their expectations, then and only then has a filmmaker been able to reach his audience.

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Deflating Ra.One...

By Anant Mathur (November 05, 2011) 

Before we begin, please remember this is just a comparison of the nett box office collections and not a Shahrukh Khan vs. Salman Khan battle of the stars.

Did Ra.One break Bodyguard's nett collections record? 
This is a question that's on the mind of everyone who has followed the release of Ra.One. Whether it's SRK fans, trade analysts, people who loved it or those who didn't like Ra.One - all of them have one thing in common, they all want to know the winner of Ra.One vs. Bodyguard.

To judge fairly we must look past the numbers that are being throw out there, several other factors have to be taken into consideration. But first, Looking only at the numbers... Ra.One did NOT come close to breaking the opening day record of Bodyguard, in fact, at 14.63 crores it collected 6.62 crores or 30% less than Bodyguard on Day 1. This is shocking when you realize that Ra.One released on close to 3500 screens whereas Bodyguard was released on less than 2000 (on Day 1). With 100% collections all over India, the total capacity of Ra.One was around 35 crores. Which means, at 14.63 crores, the Day 1 collections were approximately 40%. Bodyguard released at 1PM on Wednesday (Day 1) and didn’t have as wide a release. Still, it managed to set a record of 21.25 crores. At worst, due to all the hype and craze, Ra.One was expected to cross 20 crores easily.

After the Ra.One premiere, the paid reviews of the film were released to the public, as expected, they praised Ra.One and gave it between 3.5 - 4.5 out of 5 stars. After it's release, on October 26, the real reviews of the film came out, they were mostly negative and gave the film between 1.5 - 2.5 out of 5 stars. After the second day, Ra.One saw a huge fall on Day 3 - collecting 15.50 Crores - it fell by 7.30 crores on the third day and lost 32 percent of the audience from Day 2. On Sundays, films usually pick up 10-15 percent but Ra.One failed to do that as well dropping from 14.25 crores on saturday to 13.79 crores on Sunday.

Yes, Ra.One just barely broke the 3 day record of Bodyguard by 1.06 crores (due mainly to the 3D version that released a day later on Oct. 27th), but it missed the 5 day record of Bodyguard by 4.2 crores. We must also remember that the ticket prices for Ra.One were 20% higher than Bodyguard for the 2D version and doubled or more in several places for the 3D version which released a day later - this is the reason why the second day collections shot up and are considerably higher than any other day (most people who were waiting for the 3D version didn't see the film till the 2nd). At this time, I must inform my readers that Ra.One is not shot in 3D, they have converted the 2D version into 3D so they can charge a higher price. But not a single frame of the film is shot in 3D. Shahrukh Khan must be commended for informing the public that the film was not shot in 3D, so they knew what to expect going in.

Now, If we go by ticket sales only Ra.One was watched by less people than Bodyguard, 3 idiots, Ready or Dabanng in it's opening week. I feel that the number of tickets sold is a more accurate way of judging a film than collections because some films have higher ticket prices than others which inflate the collections - making their comparison inaccurate. If we look at Hollywood, there too, by ticket sales, Gone with the Wind is the most watched film in the movie theaters. Avatar is the highest grossing only because the ticket prices were higher in comparison to the value of the dollar in the 1930s, but Gone with the Wind was watched by more people in the movie theater than any film in history and more than twice as many as Avatar. At the time of this post, Avatar was at number 14 by ticket sales (Ben-Hur, E.T., Star Wars IV & V, Jaws, The Sound of Music, Snow White, and James Cameron's own Titanic are all ahead of Avatar). Similarly Ra.One, By ticket sales, would fall to no. 9.

Ticket prices of Ra.One 2D version were between Rs. 100 to Rs. 400 and the 3D Version were
between Rs. 350 to Rs. 750. Ticket prices of Bodyguard ranged between Rs. 80 to Rs. 300. As you can see, the ticket prices of Ra.One were 20-25 percent higher than Bodyguard for the 2D version and in most cases more than doubled for the 3D version. This, in fact, makes it an unfair comparison.

In order to compare fairly, Ra.One must be deflated and brought down to the same price points as Bodyguard. To make things less complicated, we will assume that Ra.One was only released in 2D - this way we just take 20 percent off all its collections, but do keep in mind that because of the higher 3D ticket prices the Ra.One numbers should be even lower from day 2 (when the 3D version was released), but we won't worry about that for now.

So, by taking 20% off the collections of Ra.One and bringing it to Bodyguard ticket prices, here is the break down of Ra. One vs. Bodyguard in their extended first week (9 days). The first number is the actual collections of Ra.One followed by the 20% price reduction and then the Bodyguard collections for the same day (All numbers are in Crores)

Ra.One vs. Bodyguard (nett collections)

Day 1
14.63 Crores
12.19 Crores
21.25 Crores
Day 2
22.80 Crores
19 Crores
17.34 Crores
Day 3
15.50 Crores
12.92 Crores
13.28 Crores
First 3 Days Total
52.93 Crores
44.11 Crores
51.87 Crores

Day 4
14.25 Crores
11.88 Crores
14.65 Crores
Day 5
13.79 Crores
11.49 Crores
18.65 Crores
First 5 Days Total
80.97 Crores
67.48 Crores
85.17 Crores

Day 6
5.93 Crores
4.94 Crores
8.58 Crores
Day 7
4.85 Crores
4.04 Crores
6.54 Crores
Day 8
3.88 Crores
3.23 Crores
5.42 Crores
Day 9
2.87 Crores
2.39 Crores
4.25 Crores
First 9 Days Total
(Extended Week 1)
98.50 Crores
82.08 Crores
109.96 Crores

As you can see Ra.One actually didn't break any records if we bring it down to the same price points as Bodyguard. Similarly, if we inflate Bodyguard's collections by 20% that would mean it collected close to 132 crores in it's extended first week - 33.5 crores more than Ra.One. At the same price points, the opening day collections of Ra.One fall to no 6 all time and the 3 day collections fall to no 3 with the 5 day falling to no 4 and 9 day staying at no 2. Also, you have to keep in mind that all other films (except Bodyguard) had a normal 3 day weekend and a 7 day week. Plus the above calculations haven't taken into account the higher ticket costs of the 3D version which would drop its position further.

Many numbers will be thrown out there regarding the Ra.One collections in the near future, but do remember that Bollywood pays for most of the reports released in the media and it's difficult to judge which is the correct number. Hopefully, this in-depth analysis will help you understand the true nett collections of Ra.One and that when the producer(s) know a film will only recover its cost in the first week they release the film in a record number of prints with inflated ticket prices and as an added gimmick - fake 3D.

Regardless of whether we enjoyed the film or not, the final tally is that at most Ra.One will collect between 116-117 crores from its theatrical run (which is quite a feat in itself) placing it at number 6 in current all time nett collections list (after 3 Idiots, Bodyguard, Dabanng, Ready and Ghajini) but still it's ginormous budget will render it a flop for its distributor. A film is successful only if it recovers its cost through the theatrical nett collections and makes a profit. If it doesn't make a profit but manages to recover its cost, it's called an average film. If a film is unable to recover its cost, it's considered a flop. So, if anyone asks you if Ra.One was a hit or flop, remember that it's a flop only because the cost was too high.


© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved.