Massive combined post! Because I am trying to end the day/first year of blogging at exactly 999 posts, so I can’t split this up. But I also don’t want to ignore any of these stories!
First, casting! Somehow I thought Parineeti was confirmed for Judwaa 2. Maybe because she and Varun danced to a Judwaa song at the Dream Team concert. Or because their song in Dishoom really felt like a chemistry try out. But, nope! The official casting is now announced, she’s not in it, and no one is even saying “Parineeti now dropped” or something to indicate that she was once in. Instead, according to Bollywoodhungama, it is Jacqueline Fernandez and Taapsee Pannu.
Huh. Jacqueline I can see, she has a kind of cheerfully sexy vibe that reminds me of Karisma, plus decent comic timing. And she and Varun had a good rhythm together in Dishoom. But Taapsee? Going from an intense critically acclaimed lead performance in Pink, to playing one of two heroines in a Varun Dhawan centric comedy? I guess it is a good career move if she is interested in going to the mainstream, but I am kind of disappointed that she wants to go mainstream.
The bigger news today, is the letter Pahlaj Nahlani supposedly sent to filmmakers. From Bollywood Hungama, here is the supposed full text:
This is an appeal to the film trade for the benefit of all Producers and Distributors.
All Producers and Distributors are advised that in view of the shortage of cash all across India, large sections of the regular audiences of films are avoiding buying tickets in cash.
After cash resources dried up, particularly since 10th November, it has been noted most of the recent ticket bookings for cinema screenings at multiplexes are being made via online platforms.
However, since a very small amount of the cinema patrons have been using online ticketing platforms for buying cinema tickets, sales via online ticketing sites do not account for more than 20%-30% of capacities in multiplexes.
In single screen theatres where attendance is most dependent on cash sales, the daily gross collections have reduced drastically.
In this time of massive cash shortage compounded with the emerging uncertainties because of new policy announcements, the public may not be interested in spending for movie-watching, also because there are several alternative and relatively free channels of entertainment available for public consumption.
At a time when the masses are standing in long queues o withdraw amount upto Rs. 2,000 for meeting daily expenses, it is quite unconceivable that even the most diehard patrons of cinema may consider spending scarce cash resources for buying cinema tickets.
There is a general consensus in the film trade and industry that it is becoming increasingly difficult for multiplexes to exert a draw on the audiences particularly because the admission rates are very high. Though there have been some attempts to deep discount ticket prices, the response from the paying public is sub-optimal. As a result, the best of recent films with the vest of starcast may not be able to garner more than 30% of capacity crowds.
But there has been no remission in the costs of production, acquisition, marketing, distribution and exhibition which unit now continue to be prohibitively expensive for all types of films, regardless of content, genre or starcast. Of particular interest amongst members of the films trade and industry at this point in time is that the cost of digital transmission which is now the biggest barrier for exploitation of films across India.
While the film industry reels under these shocks, there is no show of sympathy or contribution towards the benefit of the exhibition industry by monopolistic digital platforms. These platforms are the only enterprises related to films that continue to make money despite the fact that the business of cinema is bleeding; in face they are profiteering out of our distress.
All in all, we are incurring cash losses for every day that we continue to do business. There is widespread consensus that a business model which burns scarce cash and capital is unsustainable.
Therefore I appeal that all the film releases for the rest of November and December 2016 should now be postponed. Since December 30 is the deadline by when we expect the economy to re-start working smoothly, it may be wise for all film producers to consider not releasing their films before the situation reverts to normal. Only then we can expect a healthy interest in films to be revived.
We must wait for the currency situation to return to stability and for liquidity to return to the economy before we can expect our movies to be watched and appreciated by the audiences. Those who try to play clever by trying their luck in such uncertain times will only destroy their own prospects and they will burn their fingers.
Such adventurists will find it difficult to survive in the film industry.
What the heck Pahlaj?!?!? Who made you God of the film industry? The Censor Board is supposed to censor films, that’s it, nothing else. If this appeal had to go out, then have it be done by the Producers Guild President Mahesh Bhatt, or even the Minister of Broadcasting or the Home Minister. Not the Censor Board president!
And beyond his official title, Pahlaj also doesn’t have the respect and experience that would make people trust his judgement. He is giving this whole argument for why people should or shouldn’t do this. But look at the people he is “advising”! Karan Johar and Shahrukh who are co-producing Dear Zindagi, Aditya Chopra who is coming out with Befikre, Dangal with Aamir Khan. These are the top figures in the Hindi film industry, the ones who brought the industry back to life in the 90s after the slow decline in the 80s (a decline in which Pahlaj took part, by the way), who made films global, who were raised on filmsets and listening to film folks. And then there’s Pahlaj Nahlani, who hasn’t had a hit movie in I don’t know how many years, who hasn’t even released a movie since 2008, and he’s giving THEM advice on how the industry functions and the changes brought by digital platforms? COME ON!!!!
If anyone was going to make give this kind of a message, it should be, well, Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar and Aamir Khan. They are the actual figures who control the industry, and who are rightfully respected for their business acumen.
Maybe I am miss-reading this, but it feels like Pahlaj is making the appeal, because it is more of a threat than an appeal, “such adventurists will find it difficult to survive in the film industry.” No idea why there is a need to threaten filmmakers, no idea what Pahlaj is afraid of happening, but I am going to assume there is some complicated financial/political thing behind it that I don’t understand.
Finally, international box office figures! Remember how I mentioned that Force 2 all of a sudden disappeared off movie screens near me? Well, it only opened on 40 screens in America in total! And made slightly over $2,000 per screen. Which is not spectacular, but not embarrassing, for a John Abraham movie. For an Akshay or Ajay movie, it would be a little embarrassing. And for a Khan movie, it would be a disaster. But for John, not bad! It was beaten by a Telugu movie, Ekkadiki Pothavu Chinnavada, but that opened on 90 screens, plus Telugu movie almost always do better opening weekend in America, because of the funky graduated pricing. Meanwhile, ADHM is still doing very very well. On 53 screens, more than Force 2 in opening weekend, and the 3rd on film of the week. On the other hand, the per screen average is dreadful. Less than $1,000 per screen. Which doesn’t mean people no longer want to see it, it means 53 screens is too many screens. This is what I was talking about with Sultan, there has to be a calculated drop down in number of screens over time. If ADHM was at only 40 or 25 screens this week, so one in every major market, it would be sitting pretty. 53 screens is just splitting the audience. But, on the other hand, what else are theaters supposed to show? Force 2 clearly was right at the saturation point at 40 screens, and Shivaay and Rock On 2 are doing way worse than ADHM (both only on 6 screens, and making around $250 per screen).
In Canada, the picture is considerably rosier, just because the screen count is more reasonable. Force 2 opened on only 6 screens, making a nice ~ $2,225 per screen. ADHM is down to only 12 screens, and is making a similar solid profit of more than $2,000 per screen. And Chaar Sahibzaade – Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur is still riding high in week 2 on 19 screens at well over $4,000 per screen.
For once, the UK and Canada line up. Chaar Sahibzaade is doing wonderfully there, which is not common for Punjabi releases. I suspect it is less a matter of people being extra excited about Chaar Sahibzaade, and more them being not so excited about the other options. Again, ADHM is on fewer screens and at week 4, the box office is dropping off. Force 2 is doing okay on fewer screens, but it’s a John Abraham release, it’s not going to set the world on fire.
Except in Australia! Why does Australia love John Abraham? No idea! Or maybe it’s just that they love action movies. And, relatedly, they are also sick of ADHM before everyone else, it’s doing much worse per screen than in any other territory. Not as bad as Shivaay though. 16 screens and $404 total. So, $25 per screen aaaaaaallllll weekend. Not good.
Going back to the message from Pahlaj Nahlani above. If the filmmakers give in and move all their releases to January, that might make things a little calmer in India, but it is going to kill the international exhibitors. Look at this box office! They are already struggling, just with the normal state between big releases, with ADHM and Shivaay winding down and nothing else major wanting to release right before Dear Zindagi.
If this keeps stretching out for the next month, and they lose DZ and Befikre and Dangal, you are looking at bankruptcy from the smaller locally owned all Indian theaters from Canada to Australia. Or, worse, a bunch of international chains deciding it’s not worth it to give up one or two screens to Indian releases any more, because they aren’t reliable. This kind of trust from the global market took decades to build up, and it could all be wiped out in a single really really bad December.