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An interesting side note to URI: The Surgical Strike’s triumphant box office campaign has been the substantial numbers it has continued to rack up even after going past what is usually considered the effective life span of a Hindi film’s prime earning capacity in theatres, i.e. its first two weeks. As we all know, often this revenue generating window is further telescoped to just the first week alone, if not an even shorter span of time.

Bucking that norm, URI: The Surgical Strike earned almost Rs 36 crore in its third week in cinemas, more than Rs 27 crore in Week 4 and over Rs 17 crore in Week 5. Keeping aside the fact that the film earned in excess of Rs 130 crore from its first two weeks, even the Rs 80 crore-plus tally of its subsequent run in isolation would have qualified it as a very successful medium-budget film.

This remarkable and unusual phenomenon prompted the question that we are exploring in this note: if you were to treat each week in a film’s theatrical life cycle as a standalone unit and list the top earners in each chronological week, how closely (or not) would the resultant rankings mirror the All-Time collections’ charts?

For the answer to that question, check out the table below that lists the Top 10 Hindi films by lifetime collections as well as by the numbers recorded in Weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4:

It is a simple table to read and for even further ease, we have colour-coded those titles that appear more than once.

As is evident, the only constant across all the different time periods is Baahubali: The Conclusion, which monopolises the top spot on all counts. The four remaining titles in the list of the Top 5 All-Time grossers – Dangal, Tiger Zinda Hai, Sanju and PK – also make it to the Top 10 spots in Weeks 1, 2, 3 and 4, albeit in positions that differ from their All-Time rankings. Apart from these, Padmaavat is the only film that features in all the charts.

A closer inspection of the table throws up some interesting findings, some of which can be quite useful for exhibitors planning their screen/show allocations between new releases and still-running films, as also for producers/distributors planning their post-release promotions strategies.

A good case study, for example, is the film whose trajectory led to this week’s editorial note, URI: The Surgical Strike. Despite scoring the big numbers it has, the film does not feature in the All-Time Top 10 (though it could conceivably still get there!), nor in the first week charts. It makes its first appearance in Week 2 at tenth position and subsequently, climbs rapidly each week – fourth place in Week 3 and from there, the second-highest Week 4 grosser. In that regard, the film’s path was diametrically opposite to that of Sultan, which made it to both the All-Time and Week 1 charts but to none of the subsequent weeks’ Top 10 listings.

Significantly, in addition to this year’s surprise packet, URI: The Surgical Strike, two other films that feature in the Week 4 Top 10 are Badhaai Ho and Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, which similarly surpassed expectations last year by going past the Rs 100-crore mark at the domestic box office.

The data, therefore, would seem to suggest a welcome trend towards a longer theatrical shelf life and a more stable earning cycle for films that generate very positive word-of-mouth despite the absence of an A-list star cast. And on the evidence of the three titles mentioned in the preceding paragraph, this seems to be especially true for films that strike a chord with the youth.

Moral of the story, to paraphrase the popular phrase: catch them young and watch them (help you) grow!


- Nitin Tej Ahuja

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