Salman Khan, the boss of the Indian box office, is back with his latest release, Sultan, which opens in cinemas on July 6. And trade pundits are already on a high. They’re predicting high first-weekend grosses for the movie, which stars Salman and Anushka Sharma. But, is the business game going to be as simple as that?
There is a pattern to how Salman Khan’s movies have been performing. On the surface, they are all box office smashes. What started with Wanted in 2009, and continued with films such as Ready (2011) and Ek Tha Tiger (2012), established Salman as the most saleable actor in Bollywood, with occasional challenges from Aamir Khan. By the time Dabangg 2 (2012) released, Salman’s supremacy over the ticket window had become a phenomenon.
But a close look at the box office figures of his last five films give a good insight into how well Salman’s movies really do. For instance, when Dabangg 2 was running in theatres, collections declined strikingly in the second week, followed by a further fall in collections in the third week. Business went down by 64.59% on the 8th day, and by 68.85% on the 15th day.
A similar pattern can be seen with four other films – Jai Ho (2014), Kick (2014), Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) and Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (PRDP; 2015). The audience was particularly harsh with Jai Ho as its collections dropped by approximately 72% by the end of the first week. By the end of the third week of its run, Jai Ho completely ran out of steam. That year, Salman’s name was dragged into some controversies, which was believed to be the chief reason behind this decline in collections. Kick’s business dropped by 68.90% after seven days, while Bajrangi Bhaijaan’s dropped by 52.5% by the end of the second week. PRDP’s business declined by 78% on the 14th day.
When we take the third week into account, the situation becomes clearer. In fact, it is the third week’s figures that suggest whether a film is going to cross the Rs 250 crore mark or not. Interestingly, all of Salman’s films in the past five years, besides Bajrangi Bhaijaan, lost their sheen by the third week.
A film’s business often drops after the first three days. But the drop percentage of Bajrangi Bhaijaan is significantly lower than that of other movies. Incidentally, the movie has also been praised the most by critics. That suggests that a positive word of mouth can actually help a film sustain the right momentum.
Recent big-ticket films like Shah Rukh Khan’s Dilwale (2015) and Fan (2016) failed the litmus test despite humungous first weekends. These movies did not continue to do well by their third week in cinemas.
Big money is involved, so the game doesn’t get over by the third week. And, with increasing entertainment tax and decreasing satellite rights money, it’s going to enter the fourth week, or even further, for sure.
However, the costs of projection and maintenance are going higher. So films today need to earn more money than before to break into the big leagues.
Despite wins and losses at the box office, however, Salman Khan is still number one when it comes to the money game. His last five films have grossed more than Rs 1000 crore.
We predict Sultan to match the opening of PRDP and Bajrangi Bhaijaan with at least a Rs 170 crore opening week. The rest, as has been made clear, depends largely on the quality of the film. Because even Salman Khan isn’t immune to bad word of mouth.
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