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The Rise Of The Mid-Range Movie Hit

By Vanita Kohli-Khandekar
June 17, 2024 12:09 IST
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While big hits like Jawaan are missing this year, it has been filled with a range of medium-range hits such as Crew, Teri Baaton Ne Uljhaa Diya and Guntur Kaaram, observes Vanita Kohli-Khandekar.

IMAGE: Fahadh Faasil as Ranga in Aavesham.

The Fahadh Faasil starrer Aavesham, the story of an eccentric gangster, is among the top ten hits of 2024.

Siddharth Malhotra's Fighter, Chidambaram's Manjummel Boys, Prasanth Varma's Hanu-Man and Vikas Bahl's Shaitaan are among the others, says Ormax Media's Box-Office report for the first four months of 2024.

The cumulative gross (money collected in theatres including taxes and trade share) for all Indian films released between January and April this year stands at Rs 3,071 crore (Rs 30.71 billion).

That is completely in line with the first four months of 2023, a record year for Indian cinema.

However, if you read the news, it would seem like 2024 has been a bad year; that films are not working and OTT (over-the-top) is killing cinema.

Why? Because three things that have happened over the last 2-3 years haven't got internalised in our understanding and writing around films.


IMAGE: Ajay Devgn and Jyotika in Shaitaan.

One, that 'mid-range hits' are here to stay. The 'big hits' of last year, Jawaan and Pathaan, collected over Rs 1,000 crore (Rs 10 billion) each at the box-office.

That is over twice the amount that a normal 'big hit' does. Most of the hits this year are in the Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million) to Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) range.

Given their budgets and other revenue streams, almost all these films are profitable. However, without figures like Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion) or Rs 700 crore (Rs 7 billion) nbeing brandished around, it seems that films are not doing well.

The rise of the 'mid-range hit' is, in fact, one of the most heartening things to happen to the business of cinema.

Between Pathaan and the next blockbuster, you need medium-budget hits like Ponniyin Selvan 2 or OMG 2 (both 2023) to keep people coming back to the theatres.

While the big budget ones like Jailer or Jawaan are missing this year, it has been filled with a range of medium-range hits such as Crew, Teri Baaton Ne Uljhaa Diya and Guntur Kaaram, thanks to the domestic crossovers or the pan-Indian film.

That is the second thing that needs to be recognised. Many of the top hits are non-Hindi, non-Hollywood films which worked across their core markets.

For instance, Malayalam cinema is having an extraordinarily good time grossing Rs 558 crore (Rs 5.58 billion) at the box-office in the first four months this year.

Roughly one-third of this came from markets other than Kerala. Marathi cinema has had a great 2023 with Baipan Bhari Deva and Jhimma. So has Punjabi with the third film in the Carry on Jatta series.

On the other hand, Hollywood, with the exception of Barbie and Oppenheimer, had a bad 2023 and continues to disappoint.

Many reporters simply don't factor in cinemas other than Hindi, Hollywood and probably Telugu while commenting on the movie business.

IMAGE: Deepa Parab, Sukanya Kulkarni, Suchitra Bandekar, Vandana Gupte, Rohini Hattangadi and Shilpa Navalkar in Baipan Bhari Deva.

More than any other business perhaps, cinema goes through seasonal cycles driven by lack of success due to bad films, vacations, major cricket tournaments, or elections dominating media consumption.

That is the third factor that needs to be recognised.

Does that mean streaming is having no effect on the theatrical business? Of course not. But the nature of its impact differs hugely from popular perception.

Theatres bring in anywhere from 60 to 70 per cent of the total revenue for any cinema, anywhere in the world.

Knock it out of the equation and that cinema suffers creatively and commercially. Malayalam cinema is a great case in point.

In 2010, Kerala had about a thousand, steadily declining screens. In 2016, streaming brought succour to producers.

For 6 to 7 years ending in 2023, most were making films only for OTTs. This ended up making the market more business-to-business instead of a consumer facing one.

In January 2023, streaming services cut back on programming spends focussing on buying films only if they had worked theatrically.

This forced the whole film ecosystem in Kerala to pivot back to the theatres, which invested in renovation and more screens.

The current boom in Malayalam cinema is completely led by people walking back into the theatres.

However, there are films that work better on OTT. I saw Laapata Ladies, Kiran Rao's witty ode to womanhood in an almost empty theatre. On OTT, it has raced through the charts and is getting global love on Netflix.

The fact is, much like television, streaming is another revenue stream, another platform for the Rs 19,700 crore (Rs 197 billion) Indian movie business.

It cannot replace the money, influence and the audience love that theatres bring for a film. What films work there, however, is something no one can predict.

Disclaimer: These are Vanita Kohli-Khandekar's personal views.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/

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Vanita Kohli-Khandekar
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