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Stree’s box office success proves films don’t need an auspicious release date; they just need to entertain

Stree’s box office success proves films don’t need an auspicious release date; they just need to entertain

Over the weekend, Shraddha Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao’s Stree crossed the Rs 100 crore benchmark. The horror-comedy hit a century two days into its third week at the box office, making it the ninth film this year to become a part of the coveted club. It joins the ranks of Padmaavat, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety (SKTKS), Raid, Baaghi 2, Raazi, Sanju, Race 3 and Gold.

The interesting trend among this year’s successful films is that a majority of these – Raazi, SKTKS, Raid, Sanju, Baaghi 2 and now Stree – weren’t released on a festive long weekend and have still gone on to do big numbers at the box office.

Poster of Stree

In recent years, filmmakers have clambered to book a spot on the handful of festive release dates in the hope that an extended weekend would bring in greater box office returns. Big and medium-sized films hope to cash in on occasions like Eid, Christmas, Diwali, Dussehra and national holidays. Apart from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial historical that released over the long Republic Day weekend, 2018’s holiday releases – Race 3 (Eid) and Gold (Independence Day) haven’t really lived up to box office expectations.

What’s worked at the box office this year, instead, has been a mixed bag of genres and budgets.

We had a Tiger Shroff blood n’ gore fest, a procedural thriller about an Income-Tax raid, the biopic of an actor, the story of a spy, a battle of the sexes and the tale of a female spirit who abducts men in the dead of the night, only leaving behind their clothes.

Among these, Raid, Sanju and Raazi featured A-list actors but their stories were unconventional enough to make them risky propositions. Audiences thronged to watch these films, regardless of when they released, simply because these were entertaining stories.

Rajit Kapur and Alia Bhatt in a still from Raazi

About a decade ago, when this trend of earmarking big holidays to release tentpole films started, it was seen as a prudent business decision. While Bollywood has had big Diwali releases for decades, it was Aamir Khan’s 2008 Chirstmas release Ghajini that signaled the beginning of this trend. The following year, Salman Khan joined him on the bandwagon with Wanted, the first of his nine Eid releases. Akshay Kumar, who has had a string of patriotic films, understandably prefers the 15 Aug and 26 Jan weekends.

This formula worked for producers, distributors and exhibitors for a few years but now with it’s not just the big-ticket films vying for a piece of the extended weekend pie. While the number of screens has increased over the years, so have the number of Bollywood releases, and we still have just 52 Fridays in a year. While the potential of making big bucks during a festival release remains, it’s rare for a film to have the audiences’ undivided attention. And, it’s not just Hindi films competing with each other. Hollywood’s jumped into the fray as well.

This Dussehra, Vipul A Shah’s Namaste England will clash with Ayushmaan Khurranna’s Badhaai Ho and Hollywood’s adventure fantasy Mowgli. Aamir Khan’s mega Diwali release Thugs of Hindostan will compete with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald within a week of release. Shah Rukh Khan’s much-awaited Christmas release Zero will have DC’s superhero film Aquaman for company. Currently, four Bollywood films – Thackeray, Manikarnika – The Queen of Jhansi, Super 30 and Cheat India – are slated for a Republic Day 2019 weekend release.

Still from Raid’s song ‘Nit Khair Manga’ featuring Ajay Devgn and Ileana D’Cruz. YouTube screengrab

Two or more films going head-to-head has always meant that films will cannibalise each other’s collections. There are no winners in these scenarios.

As films like SKTKS, Sanju, Raid and, now, Stree, have shown — films don’t need an auspicious release date; they just need to entertain. It’s a fair assumption that big films from both Bollywood and Hollywood will continue to target these extended weekends; a smarter filmmaker might well say to hell with it, and pick a sparse weekend.

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