Benita Chacko

Will SRK’s Pathaan bring much-needed respite for exhibition business?

The film is expected to rake in Rs 40 crore on its opening day.

In Pathaan’s trailer, Dimple Kapadia says that ‘Pathaan’ (played by Shah Rukh Khan) will have to end his ‘vanvaas’ (exile) to fight a private terror group, which is plotting against India. Just like his on-screen character, Khan is emerging from a four-year self-imposed exile, with this film. And, the film industry is hoping that his return will bring good times back. 

With several big-budget movies failing to strike gold at the box office (BO), 2022 was a tough year for Bollywood. Even the bankable superstars failed to deliver.

Even 2021 was a subdued year for the filmed entertainment segment, with lockdowns and several restrictions on production and exhibition across states. According to an EY FICCI report, the segment grew 28%, but remained at around half its 2019 levels. Films raked in Rs 93 billion in 2021, as compared to Rs 191 billion in 2019.

Eagerly awaiting a turn-around, the theatres are pinning their hopes on Pathaan.

Though he is one of the biggest and most-loved superstars, Khan’s last few films have not been that successful. Pathaan is his first mega release in more than four years, since Zero. The 2018 film was one of the biggest BO failures of his career. His last successful film was Raees, released in 2017. 

Yet, Pathaan holds promise – for not just Khan’s fans, but the entire Hindi film industry that has been desperately waiting for a big commercial hit. 

According to a GroupM-Ormax report, Bollywood raked in Rs 3,500 crore at the BO last year. At 33% of the total BO share, it lost 11% since the last pre-pandemic year (2019). Only four films – Brahmastra, The Kashmir Files, Drishyam 2 and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 – made it to the list of top 10 highest grossing films in 2022. 

Inox raked in Rs 970 crore in the first half of FY23, a five percent drop from the same time in FY20 (Rs 1,020 crore).

Karan Taurani
Karan Taurani

Karan Taurani, senior vice president, Elara Capital, says that Pathaan may provide a much-needed respite in the fourth quarter (January to March).

“A blend of large-scale content and a megastar such as Khan, may provide much-needed respite to the Hindi film industry, as Pathaan may likely turn out to be the highest-grossing Hindi film in the post-COVID era, surpassing Brahmastra and Drishyam 2. With no content performing well in January, Q4 has had a slow start.”

Produced by Yash Raj Films, apart from Khan, Pathaan also features Deepika Padukone and John Abraham. The film releases today, and is set to benefit from the upcoming Republic Day weekend.

Taurani expects the film to have a strong opening day, with net BO collection of Rs 40 crore, based on compelling advance bookings. Its worldwide BO (net) collection may be in the Rs 200-250 crore range.

“This may be the biggest pure-play Hindi film in the post-COVID era on opening, as it may breach Brahmastra, which opened at Rs 36 crore on its first day.”

Gautam Dutta
Gautam Dutta

Pathaan has received phenomenal response, as far as advance bookings go. According to Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR, advances of close to five lakh admissions have been booked for the first long weekend of the year. 

“This will be the first SRK film that will open at 6 a.m. in PVR cinemas. A movie truly made for the big screen experience, we are seeing an increasing preference to watch this movie in our premium formats like IMAX, ICE, 4DX and P [XL], and in the southern market, with its dubbed versions in Tamil and Telugu.”

“Post-COVID, this is the first original Hindi movie that has generated so much excitement. Though dubbed Hindi versions of regional movies, and Hollywood movies in English, have generated unprecedented advance bookings.” 

Rajender Singh Jyala
Rajender Singh Jyala

Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer, INOX Leisure, said, “The fantastic booking trends for Pathaan, reiterate the significance and appetite for good quality content coming out of the Indian film industry. We are already seeing records being tumbled, the major one being the highest ever advances for any Hindi film.”

“We are sure that the movie will live up to the tremendous hype that it has created, with Shah Rukh’s comeback presence, along with a great line-up of stars.”

2023 is set to be a big year for Bollywood with some blockbuster releases - Rocky aur Rani ki Prem Kahani, The Devotion of Suspect X, Adipurush, among others. Khan, himself, will be seen in two more films this year - Dunki and Jawan. Dutta is optimistic that things will look up this year for the industry.

"While Regional Movies performed exceptionally well post pandemic, underperformance of Hindi films due to multiple factors did impact the industry level collections. The trend is likely to change with a robust pipeline of Hindi Movies in 2023," he says.

"The way the Bollywood craze has come back to life, augurs well for us, and we are sure that the content line-up in the near future would sustain this hysteria," Jyala adds.

This has also raised hopes for cinema advertising. Ad revenues of PVR Cinemas this financial year until December stood at Rs 199.1 crore, 35 per cent lower than what it posted in the first three quarters of pre-Covid FY20. Meanwhile, Inox’s ad revenue fell to Rs 57 crore in the first half of FY23 from Rs 87 crore in FY23.

Dutta says tentpole movies like these will give an upswing to cinema advertising in the next fiscal to reach pre-pandemic levels. "Keeping in mind the buzz index and the star cast of the mega blockbuster movies, brands have shown appreciable interest to advertise," he says.

Jyala asserted that there is a renewed rigour among the advertisers. "The release of Pathaan is not only drawing audiences to the big screen, but also a significant number of advertisers are looking to tap upon the hype around the movie," he adds.

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