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Claps… Whistles… ACTION!

Just when the industry was writing the epitaph of the single-screen, this humble cinema hall elevated mass-appeal films to a winning genre

Fact 1 – India’s population –  1.21 billion

Fact 2 – India’s per capita income (permonth) – Rs 4,569.58

It’s been a while since people have been predicting the extinction of single-screen cinema halls but I often wonder whether the two numbers mentioned above will let that happen for a long time to come. The biggest section of the Indian social strata is the lower-middle class, and this audience only has enough money to spend on watching movies at single screen cinema halls.

Contrary to the popular perception based on the huge net collections heavily publicised by multiplex chains, footfalls at single screen cinemas (on a pan-India basis) are significantly higher, even toad, courtesy the much larger population they cater to.

Undoubtedly, the need to improve the condition of these cinemas and provide better amenities to survive and sustain in the fiercely competitive scenario persists. With that done, there is no way single-screens will perish till the imbalance in income levels heads towards rapid correction.

More so, the stupendous success of films like Dabangg, Ready, Singham, Murder 2 and The Dirty Picture has only established that if content is produced honestly, targeting the mass audience, and the promotions of such films are unapologetic about the audience they cater to, the potential of business can be tremendous!

The following movies listed below have not only showcased the humungous potential of films meant for the single-screen audience, they have also triggered the launch of mass-appeal films that would cater primarily to the single screen cinema audience.

Agneepath: The film is loaded with mass appeal and Hrithik Roshan in the angry young man mould will turn a lot of heads. The backing of two powerhouses – Dharma and UTV Motion Pictures – will ensure a good magnitude of promotions and a wide release. Chikni Chameli appeals to the mass Indian sensibility and is bound to get the single-screen audience clapping and whistling!

Housefull 2: The second film of the franchise, Housefull, has a star cast that puts together the perfect ingredients for a single-screen friendly film. It looks like Sajid Khan is all set to score a hat-trick.

Dangerous Ishq: Besides slapstick humour and raw action, thrillers are another genre that appeal to the single-screen mass audience. After the success of Haunted in 3D, Vikram Bhatt’s ambitious thriller about past life regression brings back Karisma Kapoor to the silver screen after a long time. Besides, the music has been composed by Himesh Reshammiya, whose songs have always had a great connect with the masses.

Rowdy Rathore: Khiladi Kumar’s return to action with Prabhu Deva calling ‘action and cut’ is much anticipated. And anyone who has seen Vikramakudu (the Telugu film of which Rowdy Rathore is an official remake) will vouch that it is sure to catapult Akshay Kumar back into the league of Indian cinema’s biggest crowd-pullers in today’s times. The raw action masala genre has almost always brought serpentine queues to the box office at single-screen cinemas, and Rowdy Rathore seems poised to repeat the act. The promotional taglines such as ‘Ilaaka tera, dhamaka mera’ and ‘Faulaad ki aulaad’ ooze the mass appeal this film will have.

Raaz 3/Jannat 2/Blood Money: The trinity of movies from Vishesh Films as usual excites the single-screen audience because they always bring together the elements that draw the public to cinemas – thrills, great music and sex. The smartly planned economics and budgeting of Mukesh Bhatt’s films almost always ensure profits (regardless of magnitude) for everyone in the value chain.

Talaash: Aamir Khan’s thriller produced by Excel Entertainment is among the hottest films slated to release this year. The film comes under the genre of Aamir’s Ghajini, which had set the cash registers ringing at single-screens as well as multiplexes.

Bol Bachchan: Rohit Shetty has always been the messiah of the masses and his next outing will be no exception to his string of hits. The super-successful combination of Shetty and Ajay Devgn will, in all probability, nail a hat-trick of striking the 100-crore net collections mark at the box office.

Ek Tha Tiger/Dabangg 2: Both films feature Salman Khan, which is a sufficient reason for everyone to know they will be blockbusters, particularly at single-screen cinemas. The man rules the masses and his fan following in the interiors of India will ensure the two films do roaring business.

With films like these in the pipeline, the relevance and potential of the single-screen audience seems to have been established fairly well among eminent producers. 2011 was great for single-screens and 2012 shows more promise vis-à-vis the last few years. The overall growth in consumption of content in the last two years finds its primary cause in the shift in focus towards mass-appealing films, which has brought a huge entertainment-starved section of the mass audience back to single-screen cinemas.

The success of recent blockbusters – Singham, Bodyguard and The Dirty Picture – at single-screens is only the tip of the iceberg. Time will show the power of the single-screen and consolidate its position further as an extremely important part of the film exhibition sector.

Akshaye Rathi, Director, RATHI GROUP OF CINEMAS

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