From Dhaakad and Khuda Haafiz 2 to Morbius, how box office 'flops' became 'hits' on OTT

Sep 18, 2022 06:42 AM IST

A number of films that found virtually no takers in theatres are now ruling the roost upon their digital release on streaming platforms.

The year 2022 has seen a number of films bomb at the box office, both in India and overseas. Many high-budget action extravaganzas, mounted on big budgets, fell flat when they were released in theatres. In many cases, bad word of mouth stemming from negative reviews, contributed to the cause. However, these films have seen resurgence upon their digital release, with many of them topping the charts on their respective platforms. A look at this curious new trend. Also read: Kangana Ranaut defends herself after Dhaakad failure at the box office

Kangana Ranaut's Dhaakad and Vidyut Jammwal's Khuda Haafiz 2 failed at the box office but did well upon OTT release later.
Kangana Ranaut's Dhaakad and Vidyut Jammwal's Khuda Haafiz 2 failed at the box office but did well upon OTT release later.

There have been few superhero films in recent times that have done as amusingly badly as Morbius. The film on the titular Marvel antihero was panned universally by critics. My own review called it an ‘expensive April Fool’s joke’. Despite all that, Sony Pictures released it twice. It flopped both times. Cut to four months later and the film arrived on Netflix, where it promptly began dominating the service’s global top ten films list. It has been among the top 2 spots of the list for close to two weeks now.

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Morbius has several parallels back home in the Hindi cinema, which has seen its fair share of flops this year. John Abraham’s Attack, Kangana Ranaut’s Dhaakad, and Aditya Roy Kapur’s Rashtra Kavach OM were all disappointments at the box office, earning just 22 crore, 8 crore, and 9 crore, respectively. The combined budgets of these films were 200 crore. But each of these films has been the number one film on Zee5, the platform where they all released after the theatrical release. Dhaakad, one of the biggest flops in Kangana’s career, raked in 60 million viewing minutes in one week after it dropped on the streaming platform.

The one common thread in most of these films has been their genre. They have largely been action films or big-budget thrillers. Streaming platforms say that the positive response to the genre as a whole on OTT has helped these titles. Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 India, says, “From RRR to Attack and Dhaakad to Rashtra Kavach OM, action as a genre works has received an overwhelming response from the audience on the platform. At ZEE5, it makes us extremely happy that we have been successful in catering to the audience’s expectations with diverse content that appeals to them.”

Manish gives the example of his platform’s latest release--Vidyut Jammwal-starrer Khuda Haafiz: Chapter 2 – Agni Pariksha. “It went on to clock 77 million streaming minutes within a week of its release (on OTT) even after its theatrical release,” he says. Khuda Haafiz 2 was a disappointment at the box office. Despite a 30-crore budget, it managed to make only 14 crores from its theatrical release.

But that still doesn’t explain why films already rejected in one medium are finding takers in another. “Some people watch a film on OTT that they simply didn’t want to spend 200 bucks on for a movie ticket. But when it comes on streaming and they already have a subscription, they watch it. That expands the reach of these films. And out of those people, there are many who find it fun, at least in a casual watch way,” says an exhibitor.

Some, though, advise to take this trend with a pinch of salt. “The numbers of streaming platforms need to be interpreted correctly. The number of minutes does not always tell you how many people watched the film. Someone may have watched just 15 minutes out of curiosity. And a major film always trends on a platform in the week of its release,” says trade analyst Atul Mohan.

But even after taking that into account, there is no denying these films are reaching a wider audience because of their subsequent digital release. And being free of the word of mouth baggage weeks after the original reviews, they do find newer fans, who give these ‘failed’ films a second life.

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    Abhimanyu Mathur is an entertainment journalist with Hindustan Times. He writes about cinema, TV, and OTT, churning out interviews, reviews, and good old news stories.

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