Producers have put a staggering Rs 85 crore into the three films; their box-office takings could determine the future of Bollywood's pecking order. Both Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai need big hits to continue their reigns as Bollywood's top stars.
More importantly, the movies could also set new benchmarks in what distributors pay for territories. Industry sources said the Mumbai territory for Jaaneman went for Rs 6.2 crore, nearly double the usual rate. And the minimum guarantee paid by a distributor in Jodhpur for the film was Rs 25 lakh, generally the going rate for all of Rajasthan.
"These three films will determine new territorial rates. If you can generate revenue of over Rs 15 crore from Mumbai -- and more multiplexes are coming up -- why will you sell a film for under Rs 4 crore?" said Sanjay Bhandari, a chartered accountant who helps production houses in raising finance.
The scramble for screens this Diwali is, thus, intense. "We will launch the film with over 1,000 prints across the globe," said Ritesh Sidhwani, the film's producer.
"We will do about 600-700 prints. We would have added more if Don was not there. Of course, we have to bargain more aggressively for theaters. But I think the two-week gap is more than enough," said Manmohan Shetty, chairman of Adlabs, which is distributing Umrao Jaan.
Sidhwani, however, pointed out that "Don" and "Jaaneman" were of different genres and he did not see a direct rivalry for eyeballs. But that has not stopped him from promoting his film aggressively, roping in companies that have in-film placements: TAG Heuer, Compaq and Oakely sun glasses.
"Don wears TAG Heuer watches; viewers can win a Rs 40,000 watch by participating in contests in multiplexes," said Sidhwani.