Diwali is almost upon us. It's a key time for the movie business as it is the festive period most in-built into the calendar where big films release and hopefully bring audiences joyfully back to cinemas with the promise of laughs, tears and hopefully monster hits!!! This Diwali is being keenly awaited by the whole industry as there are big films releasing as usual but the pressure on these films is huge as the industry has seen a barren spell over the last three months which has bordered on an existential crisis.
When Bahubali 2 released in April, it brought with it a wave of euphoria and left the whole industry thinking 2017 was going to be everything 2016 was not. Since those heady days of spring though, the reality has set in and so far leaving out Bahubali 2, 2017 has been even worse than 2016!!! Hope though springs eternal in our business, and every Friday brings the promise of a rebirth. Judwaa 2 this weekend is hopefully the beginning of a fight-back and then there is Diwali which should hopefully cement 2017's comeback in terms of content.
With Golmaal Again and Secret Superstar clashing at the box office this Diwali, the audiences have a varied range of content to choose from. But the age old question that industry asks whenever there is a clash of two anticipated films is, will the clash of date lead to a cannibalisation of business? Historically the answer has always been no and this year it will be no different again. There is more than enough space during the bonanza festive period for two big films and with due respect to Secret Superstar, there are bigger films on the horizon. Two films clashing at the box office during a period of consecutive holidays will mean that audiences have more to look forward to at the theatres and will create a motivation to venture out with the family to be entertained on the big screen.
Big films have always clashed on Diwali. Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, Aitraaz and Veer Zaara, Jab Tak Hai Jaan and Son of Sardar, Golmaal Returns and Fashion, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Shivaay. Most of these movies are big films in their own right and most of them were big hits in their own right. The ones that weren't, had little to do with their timing. They didn't work because the audiences did not connect - this would have happened even if there would not have been a clash on the festive period.
Today the exhibition sector is waiting for periods of holiday where people can come out with their families to the cinema. There are more than enough screens for two big Hindi releases and two can easily be accommodated without any conceivable harm to any of the films via exhibition infrastructure. This means that both films would get the kind of platforms they are looking for and therefore all they then need to do is perform in terms of content. That of course is the real magictrick!
The two films releasing this Diwali are very different. One is a franchise comedy and the other is a slice of life, coming of age story which should inspire and educate. Both films will have a mass audience and there is no reason why a lot of cine-goers will not end up watching both films over this period. That is also one of the great benefits of clashes on Diwali. There is a feeling that you need to see BOTH films and decide which one is better. People talk about it. It becomes something that consumes discussions. It works well for the industry.
The challenge of course is to ensure that prices and options are available to motivate people to come to cinemas. Exhibitors have struggled with content by and large this financial year and there will be some efforts to try to make up for it during the Diwali period. As long as these higher prices are not going to put off families, people will pour into cinema halls to consume the films on offer. Exhibitors need to ensure that they provide an excellent platform for consumers to come and experience the films during the festive period and give them the feeling that there is nothing like coming to the theatres and that it is a different and unique experience for time to come!
- By, Rahul Puri, MD of Mukta Arts Ltd., on behalf of Mukta A2 Cinemas