Will Salman’s Eid film save sinking single screens?

Cinemas in small towns craving crowds since Pathaan are looking for deliverance from Salman Khan’s Eid release Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan (KKBKKJ), a full-throated entertainer that targets these markets where the actor has a loyal fan base.

An adaptation of the 2014 Tamil hit Veeram, KKBKKJ hit over 3,000 screens on Friday, a holiday across most of the country. Advance booking figures show it may earn at least 20 crore on the opening day alone, also helped by the fact it has no major competition in cinemas now.

Cinema owners, particularly in the Hindi-speaking belt, who were earlier weighing closure, are excited by the prospects of the film. Many are saying its success will be crucial in determining the viability of their businesses.

“The film checks all boxes as far as commercial cinemas go, especially the kind that southern, especially Telugu movies, are known for: packaging a big star with action, songs, drama and emotion,” said Vishek Chauhan, a Bihar-based independent exhibitor.

Khan, known for his Eid hits over a decade, is likely to draw an opening crowd considering his loyal small-town fan base, despite KKBKKJ not generating as much buzz as Yash Raj Films’ Pathaan. Although Hindi remakes of south Indian films have underperformed in recent times, some trade experts said Khan’s presence would help.

Chauhan has been receiving regular inquiries on KKBKKJ since the release of its trailer, as audiences expect the old-school charm of Khan’s past releases, which appeals to the masses. “Demand to see Khan on the big screen after four years should augur well for the film along with the festive weekend, and I expect lifetime business of 150 crore- 200 crore for the film,” he said.

A steady stream of movies is essential for the survival of India’s single-screen cinemas, which saw 1,500-2,000 single screens closing during covid-19.

Over the years, Khan has dominated Eid with hits like Wanted ( 60 crore), Dabangg ( 141 crore), Bodyguard ( 145 crore), Ek Tha Tiger ( 186 crore), Kick ( 212 crore), Bajrangi Bhaijaan ( 315 crore), Sultan ( 300 crore) and Bharat ( 197 crore).

KKBKKJ is critical for cinemas in the Hindi-speaking region bleeding after Pathaan, said Pranav Garg, managing director at Maya Palace, a two-screen cinema in Muzaffarnagar. “The film is critical not for Khan, but for cinemas that face closure if it doesn’t work.”

Garg said theatre owners who were bullish about business post-Pathaan are in dire straits now.

Several trade experts point out that the festive period notwithstanding, multiple films have been hit by steep ticket pricing, especially post the pandemic. In a premium format such as Inox Insignia, a KKBKKJ ticket costs over 1,500 per person.

“The film is obviously targeting small towns and tier-II and -III markets. While an opening is guaranteed, especially with no competition, theatre-going has come down by 20% in north India post the pandemic,” independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said.

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Updated: 22 Apr 2023, 01:04 AM IST

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