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A Tale Of Five Centuries

Frequent readers of this editorial page (if any!) would have perhaps caught on to our tendency to occasionally slip in cricketing references and analogies in these pieces. In our defence, this is not necessarily a personal indulgence but representative of a national psyche in which films and cricket loom large as shared obsessions. In any case, this is yet again one of those cricket-leaning notes!

Speaking of obsessions, one trait that is often common to devotees of films as well as cricket is a fascination with statistics and numerical milestones. And for both sets of fans, the most hallowed number of them all is that magical three-figure mark, a century.

On the cricketing field, batsmen can score tons in contrasting styles – ranging from an audacious and quick-fire innings a la Virender Sehwag or new-kid-on-the-block Prithvi Shaw at one end of the spectrum, to a patient, defensive knock that we saw so often from Rahul Dravid, on the other. And straddling these two extremes is a Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli master class that seamlessly shifts gears depending on the match situation. 

Similarly, box office centuries can also follow different trajectories. Some films open huge because of their star value and sail past the `100-crore mark in their first weekend itself, while some debut more modestly and gradually pick up steam on the back of positive word-of-mouth, to eventually cross that milestone. Some centuries are made possible by urban audiences buying high-priced tickets at multiplexes while some are aided by the volume of footfalls in lower-priced, single screen theatres.

To further explore the different paths that lead to the `100-crore club, we have shortlisted a diverse mix of films that have attained that honour this year – ranging from rom-coms to biopics to massy actioners to horror comedies, some featuring A-list casts and some that don’t score as high on star value. We have then analysed this data from a number of angles to see how similar, or not, their box office journeys have been. Check out the table below:

All figures – Percentage of lifetime domestic collections of respective films

The compilation above compares the collections break-up of each film from three different viewpoints: the nature of the exhibition platform (multiplex or single screen), the geographical/distribution territory and the major time milestones in a film’s lifecycle.

Interestingly, there is not a massive variation in the contribution of different territories to each film’s tally. The top three territories for all the five films are identical and in the same order – collectively contributing almost two-thirds of the national box office. This would seem to suggest that there is a pretty high degree of stability in the relative importance of different circuits, irrespective of the nature of the film.

The multiplex versus singleplex data comparison exhibits (pun unintended!) a little more variety. While Baaghi 2, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety and, somewhat surprisingly, Stree collected roughly one-fourth of their total collections from single screen properties, the two remaining films were even more dependent on multiplexes –  Raazi, in particular, collected virtually all of its money (93.4 per cent) from such properties. 

In the time milestones comparison, two distinct patterns are visible. Baaghi 2 and Raid share a very similar trajectory – having collected over 40 per cent of their lifetime collections from the first weekend itself and upwards of 60 per cent in the first week. By the end of their second week, almost 90 per cent of their collections were already in and the films were virtually done and dusted by the end of week 3. In contrast, SKTKS, Raazi and Stree traversed a more steady and sustained path to their hundreds –  earning around 25 per cent in the opening weekend, less than 50 per cent in week 1, around 75 per cent by the end of week 2 and accumulating decent numbers (over 10 per cent) even after three weeks in theatres.

Let’s conclude by reverting to our proclivity for cricketing analogies. Just as it is important for a good coach to identify whether his ward is a Sehwag or a Dravid, and their respective natural games, we also need to recognise that different films can often behave differently when they start their box office innings. This is a particularly important lesson for the so-called ‘content-driven’ films that may not get off to an explosive start but can rapidly improve their strike rate once word-of-mouth kicks in.

To quote a certain Mr Shastri in his heyday as a cricket commentator: It doesn’t matter how they come, as long as they come!

Nitin Tej Ahuja

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