100-crore & counting but BO formula evasive

Ankita Chakrabarty/Zee Research Group/ Delhi

As Bollywood celebrates the advent of the formidable 100-crore blockbuster club, it shies away from having cracked the box office formula. Is it the actor, cast, release timing or locales that work up the 100-crore magic, the jury is not yet out?

This may disappoint a diehard Salman fan but the truth is that the formula is indeed evasive. ‘Khan of Khans’, as his fans and producers like to address him, is though the common factor for guaranteed success today but no one wants to predict tomorrow?

Last two years have witnessed the firm establishment of the 100-crore club with credits going to a variety of actors, directors, and story line.

Sample the fare-`3 Idiots`, `Dabangg`, `Bodyguard`, `Ready`, `Agneepath`, `Rowdy Rathore`, and now the latest `Ek Tha Tiger`. Salman Khan on the face of it is the only common thread featuring in four out of seven such blockbusters.

Yes, `Ek Tha Tiger` also has the distinction of making it fastest to the 100-crore club and is said to have already clocked 155 crore in about 10 days (August 24) of its release. `3 Idiots` has come to be recognized as the biggest grosser netting 202 about crore.

The decision to stay away plotting a clear trend is obvious. Says Komal Nahta, trade expert, “A film’s success does depend on the star cast and the box office collections but the story as well as the entire narration is equally important to sustain the audience attention.” If the story and the direction are not catchy, the collections do drop after initial days and the film suffers despite of being a collection of a hit star cast combo, he observed.

For Salman the success of ETT is his forth mega-hit on the trot. It began with ‘Chulbul Pandey’ in Dabangg in 2010 followed by ‘Lovely Singh’ in ‘Bodyguard’ in 2011 and Prem Kapoor in ‘Ready’ again in 2011. The common strand in all these movies is the 100 crore plus tag.

No wonder, clamour for Salman to be declared as the new unofficial king of Bollywood, is rising every day. Besides the star cast what else drives the mega success? Larger film budgets supported by aggressive marketing campaigns and promotional tactics are also helping movies nowadays to make more profit than in the past.

Explaining the economics behind film-making, Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment (M&E) at KPMG, says, “The value chain involved for different segments in a film making is different. Generally nowadays there are big production houses which are involved in the production of the film.” According to the FICCI-KPMG ‘India Media and Entertainment Industry report 2012’, the size of the Indian film industry is estimated grow at a CAGR of 10.1 percent to touch Rupees 150 billion in 2016.Moreover, the timing of the movie release is crucial.

Film critic Nahta concurs, “National holidays like Republic Day, Independence Day and festivals like Diwali and Eid help in surging the box–office collections and if a major star cast and a big banner is involved, it definitely does wonder at the box –office.” But we have had duds in the past on national holidays as well.

A sound financing model too brings in a corporate approach to achieving success though guarantee on returns is not mandatory. Thakkar at KPMG agrees, “The big production houses participate in developing the story, hire the actors, do the shooting and then sell distribution rights across India. Also there is another model in which some of the production houses sell the movie at a time of pre–production to a larger distributor which in turn acts as a master distributor.” But what does a 100-crore film mean to various stakeholders in the business?

Thakkar at KPMG explains, “When a movie releases, some part of the revenue generated by the movie goes as an entertainment tax and an average or might be a half of the share is retained by the theatre owners and the rest goes to the distributors. If the movie crosses a certain benchmark, the producer depending on the contract gets some amount of it. Revenues are also generated by the ancillary rights.”

He dwells on the emerging trend of major stars (actors) having participating in the business nitty-gritty of the movie process and thus seeking share of profits. But as they say consumer is the King! Nahta sums the sentiment, “There is no such formula for a 100 crore business but it all depends on the storyline, the performances by the actors and the audience choice.”

Salman Khan, for sure, you can prove them all wrong!

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