What makes a Bollywood blockbuster

MUMBAI Sat Aug 6, 2011 2:27pm IST

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan speaks during a news conference to promote his latest movie ''Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap'' in Ahmedabad July 7, 2011.  REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan speaks during a news conference to promote his latest movie ''Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap'' in Ahmedabad July 7, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave/Files

MUMBAI (Reuters) - If you want to see what a "hit" Bollywood film looks like, you might have to make the trip to the rundown Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai.

For more than 15 years now, the theatre has played a matinee show of the same film -- Aditya Chopra's “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge”.

The film, which released in 1995, still enjoys an uninterrupted run at the theatre, and is considered one of Indian cinema's blockbusters.

It is unlikely that a film today will see that kind of audience loyalty and success. The definition of a “hit” film is changing in Bollywood and theatrical revenue is not the only marker of success any more.

“If a film makes 10 to 15 percent of ROI (return on investment) then it is usually considered a success. The days of earning double the production cost are no more,” says Siddharth Roy Kapur of UTV Motion Pictures.

Kapur says a really good film may run in theatres for four weeks but small films wind up in a week or two, and terrestrial rights and overseas rights are now major revenue earners, garnering up to 40 percent of the takings for a film.

"Every second film is declared a hit these days but the fact of the matter is that it is a hit in the theatres only on the weekend.

Come Monday, and there are a handful of people queuing up to buy tickets," says R R Vidhani, who owns the New Excelsior theatre in Mumbai.

But Bollywood still has one of the most dismal success rates for a film industry. 2010 saw only a handful of movies that made money for producers, and big budget films like “Guzaarish” and “Raavan” lost money.

Domestic box office revenues dipped 12.7 percent, according to a PWC report, largely due to “lack of engaging content.”

Yet, newspapers are full of announcements of a film's success and producers are known to send out releases detailing "record collections", barely a couple of days after the film has released.

“There is a real lack of authentic figures coming from trade, which means it is very difficult to judge which film is a hit and which isn’t," says trade analyst Vajir Singh.

This year, movies like “Ready”, “Singham” and “Delhi Belly” have been declared as hits, but even those which didn't perform well at the box-office have made a return on investment, thanks to satellite rights and other ancillary revenues.

"Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap”, made on a budget of around 18 crore rupees, has already earned more than that in terrestrial rights.

“It is about budgeting your film right. If you can do that, your film will earn money even before it is out. That way, you can reduce your risk,” says Kapur.

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