The outbreak of Covid-19 impacted the business of cinema as theatres were either shut down or people were wary of visiting them. But just when everyone thought the cinema-going experience would soon be replaced by OTT, the film industry got back on its feet once again. Six months into 2022, and we already have films setting new box office records and earning better than what they would have in the pre-pandemic times.
Beginning with Alia Bhatt’s Gangubai Kathiawadi that released in the theaters in February 2022, films like The Kashmir Files, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, and Hindi versions of RRR and KGF Chapter 2 have all managed to bring people back to the theaters in huge numbers.
While Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files did a business of Rs 252.90 crore, Kartik Aaryan-led Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 earned Rs 184.32 crore at the ticket counters. Gangubai Kathiawadi collected Rs 129.10 crore and RRR’s Hindi version registered a collection of Rs 274.31 crore. KGF Chapter 2 Hindi version trumped them all with a collection of Rs 434.70 crore.
Film producer and trade analyst Girish Johar said, “In the pre-pandemic times, we used to clock in somewhere around Rs 2300 crore plus at the domestic box office in the first half of the year. Now, we have just clocked around Rs 2000 crore. So, we are a tad bit behind but we are reaching that level. It will take a couple of months more to come to pre-pandemic levels since we have to cover the pandemic’s backlog. Also, in the meanwhile, the preferences of the audience have changed too. Still, the numbers that we have clocked in are very optimistic.”
Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi noted that out of the total box office collection of 2022 until now, “Rs 1000 crore came only from the Hindi versions of RRR and KGF Chapter 2. Then Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, The Kashmir Files, Gangubai Kathiawadi, and a few other films added up. Now, we have our fingers crossed in the hope that more films continue to do well at the box office.” He also shared that “either people are embracing movies or they are rejecting them hands down. The films that have not worked, have not worked at all. But those that have worked have done way beyond what was expected. There has rarely been a middle ground for the films in the first six months.”
While the first half of 2022 made it difficult for trade experts to predict a film’s box office collection, it came to the fore that superstars do not ensure a box office hit anymore. Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar’s Badhaai Do could earn only Rs 20.62 crore. Akshay Kumar’s Bachchhan Paandey did a meagre business of Rs 49.98 crore. Shahid Kapoor’s Jersey (Rs 19.68 cr), Ajay Devgn’s Runway 34 (Rs 32.96 cr), Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar (Rs 15.59 cr), and Kangana Ranaut’s Dhaakad (Rs 2.58 cr), all failed to bring people to the cinema halls. Johar said, “Big stars have failed at the box office and they couldn’t match the expectations.”
Akshaye Rathi said that there is “no logical trend” dominating the box office. “There is no trend now. It is difficult to predict what’s going to happen with a film on day one, what would its lifetime would be, who draws attraction even today, and who doesn’t. It’s become so random and sporadic now that there is no logical trend that we are witnessing right now,” he explained.
Now, after a good first half, film trade experts are looking forward to a promising second half. The rest of the year has an interesting lineup of films including Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, Ranbir Kapoor’s Shamshera, Saif Ali Khan-Hrithik Roshan’s Vikram Vedha, Akshay Kumar’s Ram Setu, and Ranveer Singh’s Cirkus, among others.
Girish Johar suggested that the second half of 2022 will be better than the first half at the box office. He said, “Brahmastra has the potential to put Hindi films onto the global map. Laal Singh Chaddha, Ram Setu, the second half of 2022 is going to be better than the first half for sure. After Brahamastra, Vikram Vedha Hindi version can do a lot of numbers.”
He concluded, “The audience is there, you just give them the right cinema experience. They are definitely willing to come to the theaters.”