Yash Raj may use Salman Khan’s Tiger to sell Shah Rukh starrer
Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are two of Bollywood’s ruling triumvirate of Khans, but there isn’t much love lost between them. Now the Hindi film industry’s most high-profile studio seems to be bringing them together, in a manner of speaking.
Yash Raj Films (YRF) will be releasing films this year from both stars and is using the drawing power of one in the country’s smaller single-screen centres to sell the movie featuring the other in such territories, according to four people in the trade and aware of the development.
Salman Khan’s brand of bare-chested machismo goes down a treat in the hinterland, an area where romantic hero Shah Rukh Khan could use a little muscular assistance. While marketing Salman Khan’s Ek Tha Tiger, which releases on independence day, YRF is trying to convince single-screen theatre owners to pre-book its untitled Shah Rukh Khan starrer, set to hit the screens around Diwali.
The move is aimed at widening Shah Rukh Khan’s appeal outside the urban, multiplexes that form his core audience.
“Negotiations are on with YRF. Most single screens take a call depending on which other film releases during the same time,” said a single-screen theatre owner who didn’t want to be named. “In this case, YRF’s Diwali release is pitched against Ajay Devgn and Sonakshi Sinha starrer Son of Sardar. This is where the decision is tricky for us since Ajay Devgn’s films are successful with a mass audience.”
Featuring Salman Khan as an Indian spy alongside Katrina Kaif, Ek Tha Tiger is the most expensive film ever made by the YRF banner with a budget estimated by film trade analysts at Rs.70-80 crore. Without mentioning a figure, Rafiq Gangjee, vice-president of marketing and communications at YRF, confirmed that it has the biggest budget for a film made by the production company.
“Single theatres are always excited about a Salman Khan movie and YRF is using this to its advantage to book the single screens for its Diwali release with Shah Rukh Khan,” said one of the four persons cited above. None of the four wanted to be named.
YRF?rejected the contention that the Shah Rukh Khan film, being directed by studio boss Yash Chopra and featuring Kaif and Anushka Sharma, would need any extra marketing boost.
“Exhibitors have been associated with YRF and our distribution offices for over 40 years and have shared a great relationship with us,” said Gangjee. “All of them would be more than happy to screen a Yash Chopra film, which is coming after a gap of eight years, without any reservations.” Chopra’s last directorial venture was the 2004 release Veer-Zaara, which also starred Shah Rukh Khan and was a box-office hit.
“YRF is playing safe and it’s the best deal they can get by pre-booking it on the might of Salman Khan’s film,” said Komal Nahta, film trade analyst. “Action genre films are the first choice of single-screen theatres. They would prefer screening Ajay Devgn’s Son of Sardar over Shah Rukh Khan’s romantic film because of the audience single screens cater to.”
As per industry estimates, India has almost 10,000 movie screens, of which 3,000 are single screens; the rest are in multiplexes.
While high ticket prices mean a big chunk of box-office collections come from the multiplexes, “for action films starring Salman Khan or Ajay Devgn or Akshay Kumar almost 55% of the box-office collections come from single screens in smaller towns,” said a distribution executive from a leading production company.
That’s because producers and distributors pay a certain minimum amount to theatre owners to book halls. The money generated from ticket sales goes directly to the producer or distributor. Ek Tha Tiger’s distribution is being handled by YRF itself and the company is therefore talking directly to exhibitors. In the case of multiplexes, the producer/distributor agrees to share revenue with the exhibitor on a weekly basis.
YRF doesn’t want to miss out on single screens for its Diwali release with Son of Sardar due to release at the same time and is hence using this strategy to book theatres in advance, explained industry experts.
Ek Tha Tiger, directed by Kabir Khan, is set for release on 15 August, a Wednesday, not the traditional Friday. It’s expected to be the widest release of 2012, with about 3,000 screens worldwide.
“As you would know, cinema houses and screens get locked much closer to film release. For now, all that can be said is that it will be an extensive release both in India and overseas,” said Gangjee.
“With Ek Tha Tiger, all our content has helped create a tremendous buzz and unprecedented anticipation for the worldwide film release on 15th August,” said Gangjee.
Going by the trailers of the film and the promotional campaigns, theatre chain owners expect the movie to be the high grosser of the year.
“At the backdrop of Independence Day and Eid, Ek Tha Tiger will benefit from the long weekend, almost six days (15 August to 20 August). The box-office collections for this film will be the highest compared to any Bollywood film this year,” said a multiplex executive.
Salman Khan’s Bodyguard (2011) made around Rs. 148 crore and Dabangg (2010) made around Rs. 141 crore and were among the biggest grossers of those years. Shah Rukh Khan’s RaOne made Rs. 118 crore while Don-2 made Rs. 110 crore.
YRF’s release earlier this year, Ishaqzaade, which had a budget of Rs18 crore, earned over Rs30 crore from the box office, according to trade experts. Apart from Ek Tha Tiger, the only other film being released under the YRF banner this year is the untitled Shah Rukh Khan movie.