Big budgets, bigger flops

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Bollywood producers have now started the trend of increasing the pre-release marketing budgets of movies as well as devising multiple promotional strategies, as the life span of their movies at multiplexes is shorter. Marketing strategies now include social networking, co-branding, special events and special appearances.

The Imran Khan and Sonam Kapoor-starrer, I Hate Luv Storys, which was rated as an average movie at the box-office, made a profit of Rs. 9 crore even before its release  — through various promotions and selling music rights, overseas rights, all-India theatrical rights etc. The film was made within a budget of Rs. 15 crore.

Even if a film does bad business, thanks to satellite rights, home video rights etc., it not only recovers all the production costs, but also makes a decent profit. While the industry might believe that a big budget can get them a good product, the figures suggest otherwise as many films within the Rs. 25 crore budgets have been able to do even better business.

And massive big budget failures like Veer, Raavan, Kites and Blue in the recent past only proves the point.

Raajneeti recovered its money with its great opening and consistent wheels at the box- office. The budget was just Rs. 35 crore. Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif have been hosting debates christened Aaj ki Rajneeti in several colleges all over the country. The rallies discuss political and social topics concerning youth. Following Rahul Gandhi’s footsteps, Ranbir Kapoor, clad in a white kurta, traveled in a local train in Mumbai to interact with the locals. The film was the highest grosser after Ghajini and 3 Idiots.

Bollywood producers have now started the trend of increasing the pre-release marketing budgets of movies as well as devising multiple promotional strategies, as the life span of their movies at multiplexes is shorter. Marketing strategies now include social networking, co-branding, special events and special appearances.

Likewise, 3 Idiots — which spent around Rs. 15 crore on promotions, and ended up grossing over Rs. 300 crore at the box-office —had Aamir Khan on a promotion spree. The film exploited every possible marketing option, from the online release of the film, association with insurance products to Sachin Tendulkar endorsing the film, which put the movie among the most successfully promoted films of recent times. Stickers were pasted behind 10,000 auto rickshaws as it is the most popular mode for commuting and works wonderfully with great recall value.

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, which allotted  Rs. 10 crore for promotions alone, was hyped as the first movie to use the Ranbir-Katrina on-screen chemistry. Unfortunately that didn’t help the film garner box-office success.

Satellite rights
Big Entertainment’s Well Done Abba, directed by Shyam Benegal in a minimal budget of Rs. 6 crore, recovered its costs at the festivals where it was showcased.

Yash Raj Films’ Badmaash Company, which was made at a production cost of Rs. 27 crore was inclusive of print and promotion, but its total revenue so far is Rs. 30 crore.

Reliance sold Kites and Raavan combined together for satellite rights worth Rs. 36 crore.

Says Anurag Kashyap, whose Udaan is all set for a July 9 release, “We made a film with a budget of Rs. 4.5 crore. We had no stars to promote our film. We had to devise new methods to promote it but we are happy we recovered our costs completely even before the release.”

But not all small films can turn out to be profitable ventures. If they fail to get just about an average or below average opening, their journey is very rocky.

“The success of a film’s promotional campaign is reflected in the first three days at the box-office collection. Earlier, when movies were made, we would wait for the golden jubilee and silver jubilee runs. We could revive the movie if it did well. Movies these days make money mostly in the first week of their release. So pre-marketing is more important. A small budget film spends around 10 percent on pre-release promotions, while big budget movies spend around 20-30 percent,” says producer Subhash Ghai.

Failures
“Sometimes these tactics can boomerang,” Subhas Ghai adds. Despite having great artists, Mani Ratnam’s Raavan spent a lot on the pre-marketing strategies. It was made at a budget of Rs. 35 crore, but then it went up to Rs. 100 crore. Mani Ratnam fell ill. The film was made in three languages and lastly it         premiered in London. Komal Nahta, trade analyst says, “The slow start at the box-office  is also because the promos of Raavan didn’t convey much. Today, the audience wants to know what the movie is about before they buy a ticket.”

Kites was made at a budget of Rs. 60 crore but then was sold to Reliance Big Entertainment for a whopping Rs. 150 crore. At the end of the day, the producer had already made his profit but it was the corporate house that suffered the losses.

“There are two causes for the failure of big films. The bigger the price, the bigger are the budgets. Secondly, for films like Kites and Raavan, the budget was too high. Producers recover their cost by selling the film to corporate houses. But what about the corporates? They will have to concentrate on right prices and right content. No amount of promotion is going to help the film,” says Taran Adarsh, a trade analyst.

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