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2018: Filled With Drama

Despite a couple of big flops, the year 2018 was full of pleasant surprises for distributors even as filmmakers pushed the envelope to break new ground

A steady flow of 100-crore films almost every month, the emergence of new genres, recognition for talented actors, surprising box office blockbusters and shocking big-ticket flops have defined the year of 2018 in Bollywood.

The year started with a bang as the controversial, Padmaavat released and clocked huge numbers at the ticket counter. February saw films like Pad Man and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety delighting the audience, and a month later, we had Ajay Devgn’s Raid and Rani Mukerji’s comeback film Hichki surprising us with their rich content. In the following months, there were many films like October, Raazi, 102 Not Out, Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran and Veere Di Wedding doing amazingly well.

Then, we saw the biggest hit of this year, to date, Sanju, roaring at the box office with its `300-crore success. Smaller movies like Karwaan, Mulk, Manmarziyaan and Soorma were also appreciated. GOLD and Satyameva Jayate too brought in the crowds to cinemas but what was exhilerating was the surprise that Stree threw up. The horror comedy became a massive hit with the audience loving it. This trend was followed by films like AndhaDhun and Badhaai Ho, which too were box office winners. But with all this success, there were a few letdowns, when much-anticipated movies like Race 3 and Thugs Of Hindostan (TOH) disappointed the audience.

The year 2018 also saw Hollywood releases rake in the numbers with films like Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Nun and Mission: Impossible – Fallout, among others.

And even though this is the final month of the year, we still have a lot to look forward to with films like Sushant Singh Rajput-Sara Ali Khan’s Kedarnath, Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero and Ranveer Singh’s Simmba releasing soon.

Looking back at the year that was, we spoke to prominent distributors from the film industry and asked them to sum up 2018 for us, to name the films which in their opinion were the most profitable, and to tell us what they expect from 2019.

Rakesh Sippy, Distributor, Mumbai

This has been a good year for the industry. Smaller films with good content have done really well. Surprisingly, the big films this year that released during Eid and Diwali did not do very well. During these festivals, films normally do very good business. Smaller films that starred Rajkummar Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana touched the `100-130 crore mark. This has never happened before. In short, 2018 has been excellent.

Badhaai Ho has not only done extremely well in places like Delhi and Punjab but also in centres across the country. AndhaDhun, however, was more metro-centric. Despite not being typical action-packed films or masala and commercial entertainers, both these films earned well. The other small films that crossed the `100-crore mark faced difficulties in B and C centres, which is obvious.

This year, I have seen some numbers which are much higher than in any other year. The number of hits and box-office collections are much higher this year. Three big films will release in December. Marathi films have done exceptionally well this year. Content heavy films like Naal and Ani... Dr. Kashinath Ghanekar have released recently. We have a film like Mauli releasing this month. Every month, at least two Marathi films have been doing well.

Exhibitors in Maharashtra are very happy with the films they got this year. Every year sees some change in terms of the kinds of films that do well. It is too early to predict anything because none of the trailers are out, but 2019 looks positive. The content of the films releasing in January and February seems interesting.

Balkrishna Shroff, Distributor, Mumbai

Looking at business post-Diwali, the year looks a little disappointing. The Salman Khan-starrer Race 3 which released during Eid, did not do well; and the Diwali release TOH was supposed to be a blockbuster but even that didn’t do well. This is not a good sign. All the unexpected hits were small films but the problem with small films is that a major chunk of their profit comes from multiplexes in the metro cities. But when films like these go to B and C centres, they don’t do well at all. So even when we have `100-crore films like Badhaai Ho and Raazi, exhibitors from B and C class centres do not gain anything. They depend on commercial films with a big star cast. In that sense, this year has been disappointing. Luckily, regional cinema is doing well but it has its limitations. Some Gujarati and Marathi films have performed very well but they cannot compensate for the losses brought about by the failure of big-budget films.

The line-up of 2019 reveals that Aamir Khan does not have a release. There is one Salman Khan-starrer coming up, Bharat. When we look at the films they had this year, we need to realise that these actors are ageing. Earlier, even their medium-budget films did well. Things have since changed for them. And, at this age, with every flop, it becomes more and more difficult to recover. So, unless some new stars start to shine, I think 2019 will depend a lot on the quality of the content. Star value in 2018 did not help much. Also, the growth in digital platforms does not bode well for the film industry. 

Sanjay Ghai, Distributor, Delhi-UP

This industry has always been a content-driven space and good films have always worked at the box office. In the final weeks of 2018, I am looking forward to Kedarnath, Zero and Simmba. So we can say that there are three big films releasing within a month. Also, some films are bound to flop at the box office but, still, people make it an issue.

This year was not all that great for regional cinema in Punjab. There is a steady flow of regional films nowadays but only a few of them do good business. Earlier, there were only seven to eight releases in the year, of which five to six films would earn well. Such a flow for regional films is not good. We have more than 52 releases per year. The chart of Punjabi films is very strong. This week, despite the release of 2.0, there are two Punjabi films releasing.

The line-up for next year looks good. This industry has always been content-driven, so if the content is good then the film will do well.

Tarun Tondon, Distributor, Nizam

This year has been a mixed bag. We had some surprising sleeper hits like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Stree and Badhaai Ho, and many other films which did very well, content-wise. These were films without any huge star cast while many with big names struggled to survive at the box office. Big-ticket films like Race 3 and TOH were very disappointing. If these films had lived up to everyone’s expectations, then this year would have been an excellent year for the industry. Even though there were major shockers, 2018 was a quite decent, according to me. I don’t remember so many content-driven films doing so well. But now things are changing.

Next year looks fabulous. To begin with, we have Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi releasing in the very first month of the year. It looks good and I hope it lives up to expectations. Cheat India too looks good, content-wise. There is Kesari and Mission Mangal that look big. We also have Hollywood films lined up for the next year. If all these films perform the way they are expected to, I think it will be a great year. Even regional cinema is getting bigger. There is a big film releasing in the regional space, KGF, a Kannada film having a Kannad actor. It is great that regional films are getting a pan-India opening and that will improve our business prospects.

Sunil Bansal, Distributor, Rajasthan

This was quite an average year at the box office. In fact, I believe there was a drop in business compared to last year. Two films that had huge expectations, TOH and Race 3, fared badly at the box office but then Badhaai Ho turned out to be a huge surprise, and then there was Stree. These medium-budget films did really well. It is very clear that films with a big star cast or big banners attached to them will not matter much in the coming year. The best film this year was Sanju, a well-made film which lived up to everyone’s expectations.

In my territory, regional films don’t run. Earlier, we used to screen Rajasthani films but they don’t have takers any more. There is no scope for other regional films either, like South, Marathi or Gujarati films. There is still a month left for the year to end and we have films like Zero and Simmba yet to release. I think we will close really well and I am very confident about Simmba too.

Next year, everyone is expecting Total Dhamaal to do well in the first quarter of the year. I don’t think Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi will be all that great. There are also many other, bigger films lined up for next year. According to me, the positive thing about next year is that people have started accepting a new star cast and fresh ideas, which will be a big boost to the industry.

BH Basha, Distributor, Mysore

Small-budget films have done very good business this year while films with huge star cast, which were expected to do well, flopped at the box office. Films with unique content, even if they didn’t have big stars, did amazing business and surprised us all. If we talk about regional films, in Bangalore, some regional films did very good business. Recently, a film titled The Villain, a Kannada-language film, crossed `35 crore in Karnataka. Also, a film called KGF, which is releasing on December 21, is expected to do a good business. I am expecting some good films next year, which will hopefully do good business.

Siddharth Goenka, Distributor, Assam

The year started with a bang, with Padmaavat. After that, there were many other films that did well at the box office, like Pad Man, Raazi, Sanju, Baaghi 2, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raid, Veere Di Wedding, Satyameva Jayate, Stree, AndhaDhun and Badhaai Ho. There were also films like Race 3 and Thugs Of Hindostan, which were expected to do good business but which flopped. In the last few weeks of the year, there are some good films lined up, like Kedarnath, Zero and Simmba.

Regional cinema was not as good this year as it was last year. There was an Assamese film, Mission China, which released in September last year that broke records. We didn’t see a number near that one this year.

Next year we have Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi in January which looks like a grand movie. Even though Cheat India is releasing along with, it won’t affect the business of the former. There are many big films releasing next year like Total Dhamaal, Brahmastra, Student Of The Year 2, Kalank and so on. Because cinema is now also available on the digital platform, people want to watch only big films on the silver screen. Films that are below average do not get a good opening because of this. Because Badhaai Ho worked so well at the box office this year, there will be a lot of medium-budget films to look forward to.

Gaurav Ruparel, Distributor, Gujarat

This year threw up many surprises as well as shocks. We expect the Khans’ films to be bigger hits, earning more than `100 crore at the weekend itself, but Race 3 and TOH didn’t work at all. Zero is releasing next, so let’s see how that film does. Smaller films like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raazi, Raid, Stree and Badhaai Ho were unexpected hits. In the industry, either content works or stardom works. While stardom will help you get a good opening, only content can ensure a long run at the box office. Good films do not go unnoticed like they did earlier. Regional cinema has grown a lot. We have an actor called Malhar Thakar who is a very popular Guajarati film actor and two of his films Shu Thayu? and Sharato Lagu did really well at the box office.

Salman Khan-starrer Bharat will release next year but it will run only if it has good content. It is becoming tougher to predict whether or not a film will work, so 2019 too will throw up a few surprises.

Arijit Dutta, Distributor, West Bengal

I believe this was a very bad year. The smaller films that worked have generally worked in upmarket multiplexes. If you look at the industry as a whole, it’s been a problem because regional films in Bengal have not done well this year at all and most of the big Hindi films flopped at the box office. I am extremely worried about next year too, because too many films have been shelved because of the #MeToo campaign. However, hope is eternal, so let’s hope for the best.

Sanjay Marudhar, Distributor, CI

Overall, this was a good year for the industry. Small-budget films worked really well. Also, the bigger-budget films like Padmaavat, Baaghi 2 and Sanju worked well at the box office. Basically, all the films which had good content, small or big, did good business at the box office. The most profitable films, according to me, are Baaghi 2 and Badhaai Ho. We don’t have any regional cinema working in Rajasthan and CI, but as far as Marathi cinema is concerned, we had very good films like Boyz 2, Aapla Manus and Ani… Dr Kashinath Ghanekar. They have worked well. 2019 should be a very big year and I hope some of the big films perform well.

Rakesh Singh, Distributor, Bihar

2018 has been a very healthy year for the film industry. A small film like Stree has been an unexpected hit while big-ticket films like Race 3 were underwhelming at the box office. Sanju and Dhadak did very well in Bihar. The performance of Satyameva Jayate was fantastic here. My expectations are very high from Simmba. I think it will open to massive numbers at the box office.

Looking at the line-up for 2019, it seems that next year will also be a profitable one for the industry. However, things are not looking good for Bhojpuri films, whose business is consistently declining. Our regional industry has three big names who call themselves ‘superstars’. But even their popularity is waning and their films are not finding buyers. Producers are unable to recover the cost of production. They are now releasing their own films for better recovery, but even that is not helping. At least, some money was coming in initially thanks to distributors. With producers taking over, the money is decreasing. On the other hand, the Marathi and Punjabi film industries are doing well. But the market for Bhojpuri films here is deteriorating.

Pramod Thakur, Distributor, East Punjab

From a distributor’s point of view, this year was a mix of good and bad films. The films we expected so much of, such as Race 3 and Thugs Of Hindostan, underwhelmed at the box office and the smaller centres suffered losses. Though they were given minimum guarantees, there was no scope for recovery eventually. If we talk about profits, distributors earned big from smaller films like Badhaai Ho. We benefitted a lot from a film like this. Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Badhaai Ho and Stree are the films that helped exhibitors and distributors earn healthy profits. Sanju was a major blockbuster of 2018. It was one film that met our expectations.

December has films like Zero and Simmba coming up, both of which carry huge expectations. I am very hopeful that these films will do exceptionally well at the box office. Next year, we have Bharat. I don’t have my hopes pinned on Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi. The craze and buzz surrounding the film among bookies and the audience is lower than it should be. They are not very excited about the film. Moreover, Cheat India is releasing along with Manikarnika, and I believe that the former film has better content. Student Of The Year 2 will do well since it is a part of a popular franchise. Another Dharma Productions film, Kalank, is also lined up for release in 2019.

Debashish Dey, Distributor, West Bengal

The first film that comes to my mind is Badhaai Ho. There were other such medium-budget films like Stree, AndhaDhun, Raazi and so on, which did rocking business at the box office. These were the films whose business was five times the cost of production. Their content was really strong. On the other hand, the big films like Race 3, GOLD and Thugs Of Hindostan, from which we expected much more, bombed badly at the box office in spite of having big names attached. At the end of the day, people want a good story, something new and refreshing to look forward to. They don’t mind spending `380 on a single ticket if the film is worth that price. Today, the audience can sniff out a winner and can gauge a film that’s going to flop.

For Race 3 and Thugs Of Hindostan, the curiosity level from day one was zero. But towards the end of this year, some really big films like Kedarnath, Zero and Simmba are going to release. Of these films, I have my hopes pinned on Simmba.

If the films lined up in the coming year have good content, then they will work. The teaser of Manikarnika – The Queen Of Jhansi, has generated curiosity among the audience. We are definitely looking forward to 2019 and what it has in store for us. 

- Bhakti Mehta, Bhavi Gathani, Titas Chowdhury

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