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Bollywood lights up with Diwali

Ashish Sinha  |  New Delhi 

Six big-budget films to be launched over next two weeks.

Starting Diwali, the next two weeks will be critical for Bollywood, with at least Rs 300 crore riding on mega budget films like Blue, All the Best and Main Aur Mrs Khanna, released today, and others like Aladin, and expected to hit the theatres soon.

Blue, the Akshay Kumar-starrer, is one of the most expensive Bollywood films, with production and marketing budgets totalling a little under Rs 100 crore. This is because the film is mostly shot at international locations, like the Bahamas, along with an international crew. It opened today to over 80 per cent bookings across multiplexes.

Big bucks are also riding on Ajay Devgn-Sanjay Dutt-starrer All The Best and Main Aur Mrs Khanna, starring and Kareena Kapoor, crucial for UTV after the success of its earlier film, Kaminey, released in August.

According to film trade analysts, Eid and Diwali are considered the best business periods for the film industry. “In the July-to-September period last year, Bollywood films did business in excess of Rs 460 crore, riding on the success of films like Singh is Kinng and others. This year, though the numbers are 12 to 15 per cent lower, the potential success of Blue, Aladin, and others could well offset the gap in collections,” says a Mumbai-based film analyst.

On Blue, both distributors and exhibitors are cautious because of its big budget. “Looking at the all-India bookings, Blue could be Akshay Kumar’s biggest openings in recent times. The financial targets are steep, I must admit, but the multiplexes are already witnessing 80 to 90 per cent bookings,” says Hired Gada, director, Shemaroo Films, the company that holds the overseas rights for the film. He describes the response for the premier show in Abu Dhabi as “tremendous”.

“Plus, we have two straight weeks of open space for Blue, as no major films are lined up till the end of this month. So, the film should do well,” he added. The film is expected to get back its investments in the first week — which would be a record of sorts.

Concurs Vishal Kapur, COO, Fun Cinemas, a leading multiplex operator, “The bookings look good for all the three films that were released today. I would be surprised if this weekend collections are not among the best in the current fiscal.”

He adds, however, that the real test of these films will be from Tuesday and Wednesday onwards. “If the films appeal to the viewers, the theatre occupancy will grow.”

Considerable hope is pinned on Eid and Diwali releases because Bollywood suffered heavy losses in April and May following a stand-off between film producers and exhibitors over differences in revenue-sharing arrangements. No films were released for nearly two months and a number of multiplexes and single screens had to close.

So far, during Eid releases like Wanted (starring Salman Khan) and Wake Up Sid (starring Ranbir Kapoor) have managed to generate cash at the box office compared to films like Dil Bole Haddippa and others.

The 50-odd Bollywood films released from June onwards have managed to generate Rs 410 crore to Rs 415 crore altogether. Last year, blockbusters like Ghajini and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi had together generated over Rs 250 crore in less than one month of their release.

In 2007, it was Shahrukh Khan-starrer Om Shanti Om that was a Diwali blockbuster.

On the possibility of Blue, All The Best and doing well simultaneously, a senior analyst of a leading brokerage firm said: “The contents of all three films are different and therefore the audience are likely to watch all the three, as opposed to choosing one over the others over the next two weeks. For exhibitors, too, the second quarter will be far better than the previous one, which was hit by the producer-multiplex strike.”

First Published: Sat, October 17 2009. 00:29 IST