This is the fourth time in three decades that Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar have had movie releases on the same day.
It is being billed as the big box office clash this year, one that film exhibitors are counting on to reignite a jaded Hindi film industry.
The period between Rakshabandhan (August 11) and Janmashtami (August 18-19) will see actors Aamir Khan and Askhay Kumar square off in theatres.
Their movies, Laal Singh Chaddha, the official remake of the Tom Hanks-starrer Forrest Gump (1994), and Raksha Bandhan, will release on August 11.
This is at a time when Hindi movies, headlined by big Bollywood stars, have failed at the box office.
This is the fourth time in three decades that the two stars have had movie releases on the same day. But this will be different, explains Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at multiplex chain Inox Leisure.
For one, the two films have almost Rs 250 crore-Rs 300 crore (Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion) riding on them, Jyala says.
Second, they will have a nearly 11-day free run between Rakshabandhan and the Janmashtami weekend (ending on August 21).
"While there are regional releases during this period, Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan's films are the big-ticket ones from Bollywood," Jyala says. "There is Taapsee Pannu's Dobaaraa releasing on August 19, but it's a niche film."
According to industry estimates, Laal Singh Chaddha's budget is pegged at around Rs 180 crore-Rs 190 crore (Rs 1.8 billion to Rs 1.9 billion) while Raksha Bandhan has a smaller budget of around Rs 70 crore-Rs 90 crore (Rs 700 million to Rs 900 billion). The latter is a family entertainer, featuring Kumar as a doting brother to four sisters.
Laal Singh Chaddha has already taken a lead over Raksha Bandhan in terms of advance bookings, with ticket sales in the region of Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) for the opening day and Rs 8 crore-Rs 10 crore (Rs 80 million to Rs 100 million) for the extended weekend from August 13 to August 16, conversations with multiplex chains reveal.
Raksha Bandhan has registered advance bookings of about Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) for the opening day and Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) for August 13-16. The numbers are expected to increase as spot bookings grow after the films release in theatres.
Distributors and trade analysts estimate a combined opening of around Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million) for the two films -- Rs 16 crore-Rs 20 crore (Rs 160 million to Rs 200 million) for Laal Singh Chaddha and Rs 9 crore-Rs 10 crore (Rs 90 million to Rs 100 million) for Raksha Bandhan -- on Day 1.
Box office collections are likely to improve based on the quality of content and word of mouth the films generate.
"Audience tastes have evolved post-COVID-19. Cine goers today are seeking movies that are big in scale and larger than life. This trend has emerged, in part, due to the streaming platforms that make available movie content at the click of a button," says Shailesh Kapoor, founder and chief executive officer, Ormax Media.
The wave of action entertainers from the South such as Pushpa: The Rise, RRR and KGF: Chapter 2 in recent months gained from the trend of films mounted on a large scale, says Kapoor.
Hindi movies such as Gangubai Kathiawadi, The Kashmir Files and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 stood out for their content and word-of-mouth publicity.
The window between theatrical and over-the-top movie releases has moved back to eight weeks in August from four weeks during the pandemic.
Will this help gain footfall for Laal Singh Chaddha and Raksha Bandhan in movie halls?
Karan Taurani, senior vice-president, Elara Capital, says that Laal Singh Chaddha could end up with lifetime collections of around Rs 150 crore-Rs 160 crore (Rs 1.5 billion to Rs 1.6 billion) while Raksha Bandhan could garner Rs 80 crore-Rs 90 crore (Rs 800 million to Rs 900 million) in theatres.
"Aamir Khan's films have reported a collection of Rs 280 crore (Rs 2.8 billion) per film. This is based on the average of his last three films as a lead actor," Taurani says. If the above estimate of Laal Singh Chadha is met, it will still be considered below par, given the scale of the film.
Exhibitors are hoping that isn't the case at all.