Feature | The Big Screen Crunch – Yalghaar and Mehrunisa V Lub U vs. Everyone Else

The Big Screen Crunch

Kamran Jawaid  |  This is the unedited original copy of the feature published in Mag the Weekly with the title on the 17th of June 2017 and can be read here. The print copy is attached at the end of the post.

To re-purpose Charles Dicken’s opening line from A Tale of Two Cities: “It is the best of Eid; it is the meekest of Eid. It is the Eid of predictability; it is the Eid of challenges”.

This Eid-ul-Fitr seems to be unremarkable for cinema, with one or two exceptions. Yalghaar and Mehrunisa V Lub U are front runners in a cramped release schedule of primarily Hollywood releases – Transformer: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Despicable Me 3 and carry over titles The Mummy – and maybe – Wonder Woman.

Some of these titles are already hampered by Ramazan where audience turn out is generally very low. The other cause are international release dates that happen during or at Eid and piracy.

Case in point: Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – by far the weakest Pirates entry – is already available online, as are The Mummy and Wonder Woman.

Footprint Entertainment, whose sister-company Cinepax Cinemas (Pakistan’s largest cinema chain at this moment), has a beefy slice of the English language market at the moment. The distributor is releasing Transformers, The Mummy and Despicable Me 3 – the last two from its partnership with Universal; the robot-slug fest from director Michael Bay via Paramount.

Wonder Woman is from HKC (imported via the company’s current deal with Warner Bros.), while Pirates of the Caribbean is from Eveready Pictures. (According to industry sources, Eveready’s last picture in the Disney’s slate is Cars 3 until the deal goes for another bidding round).

While this will matter little to the masses who may want to see these movies for the big-screen experience, their releases will create screen-space competition. In contrast to yesteryears we do have more screens – 105 in 54 locations (digital screens only).

However, there is a catch, confirms Mirza Saad Baig from Footprint. “Wonder Woman’s audience is very much limited to multiplexes. The Mummy’s audiences appeal to the circuits as well. The Tom Cruise starrer will come out in interior circuits at Eid” he says. That may delay Transformers release in some cinemas.

Mr. Baig has been a regular point of reference in these Eid analysis every year for Mag the Weekly.

One important thing to remember is that, unlike some past years, all releases have strong box-office potential and an in-built familiarity with the audience. The Mummy has Tom Cruise and the added bonus of being a reboot of the popular Mummy franchise that once starred Brendan Fraser; Despicable Me 3 will be the fourth film in the Minion-inflicted franchise that has done decent business in Pakistan, and is a billion-dollar global phenomenon. Transformers – now in its fifth outing – has always managed to make 3 to 4 Crores in gross receipts domestically (it may gross the same this year, according to my predictions).

In Urdu language content, Mehrunisa V Lub U – an Urdu 1 release – feels like a Yasir Nawaz film (whether one likes or dislikes that aspect, depends on the individual). Mr. Nawaz’s previous release was Wrong No., released by ARY Films – which, thanks to its massive marketing push managed to gross 15.75 Crores worldwide.

As per my calculation (based on initial reactions from the trailer, and the marketing push from Urdu 1), I would estimate a business of roughly 10 Crores domestically for Mehrunisa V Lub U.

One of the film’s appeal is its familiarity – this is Danish Taimoor’s third motion picture (he was in Wrong No. and was the co-lead of Jalaibee – another ARY release); the film also stars Javed Sheikh, whose inclusion may make a difference to the marketing people and not the audience (his last big release was Sawaal 700 Crore Dollar Ka, a box-office dud that came out last Eid-ul-Fitr).

The biggest release this Eid however is Yalghaar.

Yalghaar is Hassan Waqas Rana’s second tent-pole after WAAR. The film reunites Mr. Rana with his WAAR co-star Shaan Shahid, and adds a power-packed ensemble of Humayun Saeed, Adnan Siddiqui, Ayesha Omar, Ayub Khoso and Bilal Ashraf.

“We have great expectations from Yalghaar” says Mr. Mirza. “It’s not (your regular) family entertainer kind of stuff. Its hardcore, action packed which appeals to the mainstream audience”.

“If you compare it to WAAR, that was a different beast altogether”, he points out.

WAAR – produced at 17.5 Crores – was, at that time, the most expensive film produced in Pakistan; it grossed 34 Crores worldwide – out of which 25 Crores were from Pakistan.

Yalghaar, however, is more expensive. In my interview with Mr. Rana for Mag last year, he had confirmed that the production – at that time – was 17 Crores. Today, in an official confirmation by Mr. Rana on phone and on WhatsApp, Yalghaar’s budget stands at 23.5 Crores.

The media, though, has taken upon itself to bloat figures, citing the film to be as expensive as 50 and 70 Crores – a fact that feels incredulous and nonsensical at the same time (very few Bollywood films are really that expensive, says an experienced industry source).

Even at 23.5 Crores, Yalghaar is an astonishing investment – and a dramatic, heart-attack inducing risk.

To put it in to perspective: A motion picture needs to make at least thrice its investment in gross ticket sales at the box-office. A significant number of that gross is deducted as Tax, and another significant portion – 45% to 55% of the total receipts (depending on how the film is staying at a particular cinema) is deducted as the exhibitor’s stake (exhibitor being the cinema owner). The remaining gross amount goes to the distributor (in this case Eveready and Hum), who deduct their share – which could be anything from 15% to 25% – and the amount spent at marketing the motion picture.

“Market potential hasn’t grown that much. Fast and Furious 7 did 25 Crores and Fast 8 did 26.5 till date” Mr. Mirza tells me. “The potential is the same as (WAAR). If the film has freedom to perform. If the competition distributes screen spaces, then it will be a different scenario” he says.

Yalghaar, whose first few minutes I’ve seen thanks to Mr. Rana, feels like a blockbuster. Initial industry speculations (and a dark, high-contrast trailer) gave it a feel similar to Saya-e-Khudaye Zuljalal – an Army-actioner that lost most of its narrative tone and coherence on script-level.

Mr. Rana’s film looked different as the camera – mounted on a Steadicam or a multi-axis gimbal – followed subjects, inter-cutting through several locations via transitions. It felt like a Mr. Rana has learned a lot about dynamism since his WAAR days.

Even then, however, my initial speculation pegs Yalghaar’s box-office, at maximum, in the 25 to 30 Crore region domestically – depending on the word of mouth.

However, everything talked about above is a speculation of the confirmed titles at Eid-ul-Fitr.

The still-sleeping elephant in the room is Salman Khan’s Tubelight, to be released by Geo Films. The film has yet to get a response from the censors and the ISPR, and on the event it does get an NOC (a No Objection Certificate), everything changes.

Exhibitors – especially single screens who haven’t committed to distributors – will either drop titles or accommodate fewer shows for Pakistani and Hollywood titles.

It would not be their fault; the masses unapologetically love Bollywood movies – and the Indian Khan’s dominate global grosses, so why should Pakistan be different.

If released, Tubelight will out-gross every title this Eid. The Eid will be grand, but at a cost to the others distributors – not the exhibitors.

The published will be updated soon. Follow the online link at: http://www.magtheweekly.com/17-23june2017/focus.asp


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