Superstar is back on the big screen this Friday after a hiatus of three-and-a-half years with ‘Vikram Vedha’, the remake of a 2017 Tamil film of the same name. And locking horns with it for theatre space will be Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan 1’ (‘PS1’), a Tamil historical extravaganza on the Cholas, which has been also dubbed in Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.

But industry experts say that it might not actually be a battle royale between the north and the south for wooing the Hindi speaking audience. The films’ producers feel that while ‘PS1’ will dominate screens in the south, (it has not been promoted much in the Hindi heartland), ‘Vikram Vedha’, which will be shown only in Hindi, will hold sway in the north. The two movies together might have been made at a cost of over Rs 450 crore.

In fact, the producers are not expecting anywhere near a phenomenon like KGF 2 (which had Hindi box-office collections of Rs 434 crore) or RRR (with Hindi box-office collection of Rs 276 crore) to happen this time around.

Still, the two could spell big gains for theatre chains, which have been buoyed by the success of ‘Brahmastra’. “This will surely be the biggest first weekend in terms of box-office collections this year, if the two movies are looked at collectively,” says Kamal Gianchandani, chief business, planning and strategy of PVR Ltd, the largest multiplex chain in the country.

However, film trade analyst Komal Nahata says that the advance bookings for ‘Vikram Vedha’ are at around 15 per cent. “But I wouldn’t worry about it, since action movies like this are not seen by families who book in advance, but the masses who buy it at current bookings.”

PVR, however, says that advance bookings for the film is around 40-45 per cent across their properties.

According to Nahata, ‘PS1’ has seen very little promotion in the Hindi heartland. “People don’t know what the movie is all about. So initial numbers would be small for Hindi, but could pick up by word or mouth if it is a good movie, ” says Nahata.

Trade analysts say that advance bookings for the movie on the first day is around Rs 11 crore. But the bulk of it is in Tamil Nadu, with the north accounting for only around Rs 20-30 lakh. However, PVR says that advance bookings for ‘PS1’ should hit 60-70 per cent by the end of the day.

The producers of ‘Vikram Vedha’,which has been made at a cost of around Rs 200 crore (with another Rs 20 crore being spent on marketing the film), are using a two-fold strategy to promote it. It is set to become the biggest global launch for an Indian movie — across 104 countries, including France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Latin American countries like Peru and Panama and all the usual geographies.

With audiences coming back to the theatres to watch the Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer, ‘Brahmastra’, the producers of ‘Vikram Vedha’, which include Reliance Entertainment, Jio Studio, T-series, amongst others, have struck a deal with exhibitors across the country to lower the prices of tickets by 15-20 per cent over what is charged for blockbuster movies.

”You have three different levels of pricing for tickets — blockbuster films, popular at a 15-20 per cent discount, and regular ones which are at a further 15-20 per cent discount. We have negotiated the price of tickets of a blockbuster film to be like those of popular films, so that more audiences can come and see the movie,” says a senior executive associated with ‘Vikram Vedha’.

The film will be screened in over 1600-1700 screens globally, but since the negotiations are still on, the final number is not known yet.

The film has not been dubbed in other languages as it is already a remake of a Tamil film and also because the producers felt that Hindi movies dubbed in other regional languages have not resulted in much of incremental box-office collections.

According to industry estimates, ‘Vikram Vedha’ has already sold its non- theatrical rights, including streaming, satellite and music, for around Rs 140 crore. The film would need a net box-office collection of Rs 140-150 crore to break even, say trade experts.

Clearly, exhibitors who have had a tough time during the pandemic and even after the theatres opened up on account of some big flops even with featuring superstars like Ranveer Singh and Akshay Kumar, are once again feeling gung-ho after the success of ‘Brahmastra’.

The movie has had net box office collections of over Rs 300 crore, but trade analysts say while this was good for the exhibitors, the producers (Dharma Productions) might have made a loss of around Rs 50-100 crore.

That is primarily because the movie was made with a steep budget of Rs 410 crore (if you add interest costs it would be around Rs 500 crore, say others). But industry experts say that since the film has created a strong franchise under the title, producers may be able to recover the losses from its sequels.

More importantly, ‘Brahmastra’ has brought back the audiences to the movie halls. According to industry estimates, average theatre occupancy has gone up to around 30 per cent from as low as 20-25 per cent before the movie was launched.

Cinemas bank on 'Vikram Vedha' vs 'PS1' duel after 'Brahmastra' success

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