By Sandeep Sharma
New Delhi, March 30 With four big budget films crossing the Rs 100 crore ($15 million) mark in box-office earnings in the first quarter of 2017, Bollywood is off to a "good" start this year -- but it continues to battle the growing menace of piracy, say trade gurus.
Hopes are thus high from the upcoming slate of movies, starting with filmmaker S.S. Rajamouli's southern magnum opus "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion".
Shah Rukh Khan starrer "Raees", Hrithik Roshan's "Kaabil", Akshay Kumar's "Jolly LLB 2" and Varun Dhawan-Alia Bhatt starrer "Badrinath Ki Dulhania" are the four films which have done well in terms of earnings so far.
According to a report prepared by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and management consultants KPMG, 2016 was a "mixed bag" for Bollywood, where films had a "disappointing year with a near-flat performance".
So, the Hindi film industry has heaved a collective sigh of relief with the first quarter of 2017.
The clash of "Kaabil" and "Raees" was much talked about, yet the films ended up minting Rs 103.84 crore and Rs 137.51 crore, respectively.
With Aamir Khan's "Dangal" releasing in late-December, its success story spilled over into 2017, giving the film earnings of Rs 387.38 crore, according to trade insiders.
Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur's "Ok Jaanu" minted Rs 23.64 crore and Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer "Haraamkhor" made Rs 1.34 crore in early January.
"This is a very good and exceptional start. We hope that the trends don't change. Last time there wasn't much growth in terms of footfalls. But this year films have done good," film and trade business expert Girish Johar told IANS.
"Jolly LLB 2" (Rs 116.92 crore) entertained the masses in February, and "Badrinath Ki Dulhania" came out as a surprise package in March. The film has minted Rs 107.69 crore and is still running in theatres.
"The response in the first quarter has been good. Contentwise, Bollywood films are doing well," Delhi-based distributor Joginder Mahajan told IANS.
Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios, said it has been an "incredible first quarter" for the studio.
"As a studio we are backing differentiated content and the results over the last one year have been very gratifying. We have started 2017 on a very good note," Singh told IANS.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh pointed out that apart from these four films, none of the other films released in the first quarter has managed to make a mark.
"It's a good start. It's better than the previous year, but what happens is that when you have a few hits and more flops, then everything gets back to square one. The ratio of flops continues to be at an all-time high," Adarsh told IANS while talking about the failure of "Rangoon" (Rs 20.68 crore), "Running Shaadi" (Rs 98 lakh) and "Trapped" (Rs 2.29 crore).
Due to the lack of a centralised box-office analytics system, a film's earnings are based on estimations by trade analysts or given out by producers.
Mumbai-based distributor Rajesh Thadani told IANS: "There were big expectations from some of the films like 'Rangoon', but they didn't do well at the box-office, which is a big setback."
Also, Thadani said that with the new benchmarks set up at the box office by "Baahubali: The Beginning", "Bajrangi Bhaijaan", "Sultan" and "Dangal", and the growing budget of films, such response in first quarter is decent, but not quite up to the mark.
"Expectations were still slightly higher, but it's a good thing that four films have entered the Rs 100-crore club in first quarter itself. Still, we could have done much better as people are now looking out for the Rs 200-crore club because of the high budgets of the films.
"It's definitely not a bad start. It is good, but could have been better," Thadani said.
Mahajan said that one issue which Bollywood fails to tackle every year is piracy.
"There has been no implementation on the issue of piracy, which is taking away half of Bollywood films' collection," Mahajan said.
Having said that, the industry has high expectations from films that will release next in 2017. "Baahubali 2: The Conclusion" will release in over 6,500 screens across various languages on April 28.
"'Baahubali' would be a great treat. The film was a tremendous craze. I don't think in recent times any film has generated such curiosity. It will be a fabulous period from April till December as we have so many big projects lined up," Adarsh said.
Johar added: 'With 'Baahubali', we have mammoth expectations at the box office as it is releasing in over 6,500 screens across various languages in India. This is again an eventful year for the industry where not only Bollywood but various Hollywood films are there to entertain the audience."
(Sandeep Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>)