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A Flop film! What's that?

Last updated on: November 19, 2007 13:16 IST

Saawariya is a flop, or is it? Even as ticket sales are falling at a higher speed than the number of times Ranbir Kapoor drops his towel in the Rs 40 crore movie, the producer isn't too perturbed.

For, Sony Pictures Entertainment has released over 1,000 prints worldwide (750 in India and over 250 abroad) and it hopes to recover 80 per cent of the cost if the movie manages to pull in the audience to the theatres just for a week.

Earlier, a film had to be shown for weeks on end to make profits. The game started changing in the nineties when rampant piracy forced producers to release an average 200 prints. A film then had to run for at least 10 weeks to make profit.

In today's digitised era, 1,000 prints have become more of a rule than an exception for big-budget masala movies. And showing the film for Rs 250 to less people is more profitable than showing to more people at Rs 20. Which is why, less than 30 per cent occupancy in theatres was considered to be a flop earlier, but now that's a cause for celebration.

This is of course apart from the blockbuster merchandising deals (Saawariya towels are believed to be selling like hot cakes in Pantaloon stores), broadband, Internet and music rights.

Consider this: The Future Group is believed to have paid Rs 10 crore to Sony to launch a special range of Saawariya merchandise in over 300 stores across 42 cities in the country.

Add the marketing deals signed at a price of around Rs 3 crore each with Airtel, Citibank, Lotte India and Sony Ericksson.

This means the producers have raked in around Rs 22 crore (over half of the film's production cost) from such merchandise and marketing deals alone. Another lump-sum would come from the other media such as Internet, DTH, pay-per-view interface and TV revenues.

Take the other Diwali dhamaka, Om Shanti Om. Shah Rukh Khan's magnum opus may have been rated average by pundits, but the actor, whose Red Chilli Entertainment has produced the film, made a cool profit of Rs 45 crore even before the film was released.

This is because Red Chilli had sold the distribution rights for the film to Eros for an astronomical figure of Rs 74 crore.

In addition, Red Chilli sold the music rights to T-series for Rs 8 crore and satellite rights for around Rs 15 crore. Add the merchandise rights to Nokia, Shoppers' Stop etc, and the producers made a neat pile much before the audience could see the film.

It's thus clear that the performance of a film at the box office is increasingly becoming less relevant, specially for big budget, mega star films.

There are examples galore. Subhash Ghai's Yaadein was a flop, but the showman's company, Mukta Arts, made a hefty profit as the film was pre-sold to distributors across the world.

Even Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, considered to be a disaster at the box office, made only marginal losses for its producer, Adlabs.

The Rs 30 crore film had pre-sold its domestic distribution for Rs 16 crore and music and home video rights for around Rs 8 crore.

So Sanjay Leela Bhansali's over-indulgence in Saawariya may be considered a big bore by the audience, but the producers will still laugh all the way to the bank.

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Shyamal Majumdar