It’s been a strange year for us all. The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing lockdown, with things still having barely returned to normal, have meant that our entire routine has more or less been altered to a homebound lifestyle. Now, as we as a nation are extremely passionate about cinema, filmmakers have been compelled to find different ways to being their offering at our doorstep with theatres across the country remaining shut for the better part of the initial six months of the year. And that’s where OTT platforms have stepped. Now, whether you agree or disagree with films meant for theatrical release to premiere straight to digital is a debate for another day. Today, let’s focus on the ten major Bollywood films in the first half of 2020, which chose the OTT route, how much money is riding on them digitally and how this shifting dynamic (temporary or not) has affected Hindi film business this year.
First up, let’s check out which films have been acquired by which streaming services, and for how much:
Laxmmi Bomb, the official remake of the superhit Tamil movie, Muni 2: Kanchana,
starring Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani, and helmed by the Director of the original, Raghava Lawrence, has been sole to Disney Hotstar for a whopping Rs. 125 crore — hitherto the biggest such online deal in entertainment for Bollywood.
Bhuj: The Pride of India, starring an ensemble cast of Ajay Devgn, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Nora Fatehi, Sharad Kelkar and Ammy Virk, has also been sold to Hotstar for a huge sum of Rs. 110 crore. In a package deal, Ajay and Kumar Mangat, who’ve also produced The Big Bull, starring Abhishek Bachchan and Ileana D’Cruz, and Vidyut Jammwal starrer Khuda Haafiz have sold all three movies to Hotstar, with Big Bull going for 40 crore and the latter, for 10 crore.
The two Amazon Prime acquisitions, Gulabo Sitabo, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, and Shakuntala Devi with Vidya Balan, Sanya Malhotra and Amit Sadh, closed their deals at 65 and 40 crore respectively while the only Netflix deal of this kind, involving producer Karan Johar’s Janhvi Kapoor starrer Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl has been sealed or 50 crore.
The final three Bollywood movies initially meant for theatrical release, which shifted base to OTT later on — Mahesh Bhatt’s directorial comeback after 21 years, Sadak 2 (Sanjay Dutt, Alia Bhatt, Pooja Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapur), Kunal Kemmu starrer Lootcase and Sushant Singh Rajput’s final film, Dil Bechara, costarring Sanjana Sangh — have all been acquired again by Disney Hotstar for Rs. 70, 10 and 40 crore each. However, since the latter two are produced by Foxstar, a sister concern of Hotstar, money hasn’t really exchanged hands, with the amount mentioned basically being both films’ total cost of production, which will be shown in Hotstar’s books to validate that both their movies broke even.
Now let’s take a look at how these deals have affected traditional Bollywood film business in the first half of 2020, and what do the producers stand to gain:
Since 2017 onward, box office turnovers have seen an upswing as opposed their tawdry performances in earlier years, leading to at least 1000-crore nett returns, leaving everyone from the producers to distributors to exhibitors and other vendors at multiplexes chuffed with the steady influx of audiences frequenting theatres. That’s not the case this year, but it’s only the distributors (if they haven’t already partnered on a film) and exhibitors who’ve really suffered as if you take the total profit gained, it amounts to Rs. 570 crore for ten films, divided between just seven producers (two of them being in-house ones) laughing all the way to the bank. And unlike the uncertainty of the box office, this is guaranteed money in the bank even before release.
Take the instance of Laxmmi Bomb. Along with its 125 crore OTT deal, it stands to get a minimum of 50 crore from its satellite rights and another 20-25 crore from music rights. That’s 200 crore there and then in Akshay Kumar’s pocket, without having to face the hassles of excluding nett from gross income or distilling distribution band exhibition shares, for a film that didn’t cost much to make in the first place.
Now, hypothetically, let’s negate this OTT deal. If the film went the traditional route, it would have drawn a conventional optimum price of perhaps 40 crore from its OTT rights, which, when coupled with its satellite and music rights (they wouldn’t have changed) would come to 115 crore. Then, it would have been wait and watch to see how the film would’ve performed at the box office. Given how Akshay’s films have recently fared very well, but coupled with the fact that this doesn’t have a big female lead like a Good Newwz or an ensemble cast like a Mission Mangal, even if it had hit the bullseye, we suspect Laxmmi Bomb to have minted a maximum of Rs. 210 crore nett, which would have landed a share of about 105 crore for our Khiladi, giving him a cume of Rs. 220 crore. And all this is a big ‘IF’ given the fickle nature of the box office and nobody having seen the film yet. On the other hand, Akshay had to sacrifice a highly uncertain surplus of 20 crore at the most, for a guarantee of 200 crore.
Makes perfect business sense, right? Like we said, only the distributors and exhibitors have suffered, and only those distributors who haven’t already partnered on these films are suffering. As for the half-yearly turnover of 2020 being significantly lesser than those of its three previous years, well…if you factor in the films that managed to see the light of day in cinema halls at the beginning of the year, then the total turnover is actually a little over Rs. 1315 crore. So much for that theory, too.
(All figures and deals covered taken from inputs by our reputed trade sources within the industry. BollywoodLife cannot be held accountable for misrepresentation of data, if any.)