Last year, Akshay Kumar had five releases and out of them, four made it to Rs 200 crore club. This year was expected to be similar for him but many of his releases were stalled due to pandemic. His most anticipated film Laxmii (previously titles Laxmmi Bomb) moved to a streaming platform skipping a theatrical release.
While Laxmii releases during the Diwali week, it misses the ‘maddening’ buzz that previous Akshay Kumar releases have seen, says film trade and business analyst Girish Johar. According to him, the Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani starter was definitely a ‘potential Rs 100 crore project’ and if the film was released in theaters, it could have proved to be a much needed crowd puller.
“Akshay Kumar is a big and established star who comes with different kind of films and has a lot of traction at the box office. Before the pandemic, he used to come 3-4 times a year and all his films had sufficient buzz among the audience, so if Laxmii would have released in theaters, it could definitely have been a crowd puller,” said Johar.
He added, “The safety fear in these corona times is still there but people are coming out. If the occupancy of theaters is 5-10% right now, with Laxmii, it could have easily increased by 30-40%.”
The OTT platforms have also opted for a different business model. Now a film’s success does not primarily ride on the starcast. “For the success of a film, traditionally we looked at the reviews from the audience and critics and then it was based on how much profit the producers made. But OTT business is completely different. There is no such methodology. Neither we know the audience engagement nor the business perspective. Although I am pretty confident that the producers of Laxmii must have got their share of profit, else they wouldn’t have skipped the theaters and taken the OTT route,” said Johar.
Last month, cinema halls in several states opened doors to patrons after many months. The government of Maharashtra also announced reopening of theatres across the state on November 5, with 50 per cent occupancy. But exhibitors are struggling to bounce back.
The reopening brought back previously released films like Housefull 4, Street Dancer, Tanhaji and John Wick 3 too. But lack of fresh content, missing magic of big Bollywood entertainers and fear of the virus, have kept people away from the cinematic experience.
In a scenario like this, Johar believes Ranveer Singh starrer ’83 and Akshay Kumar’s Sooryvanshi are the only hope for the box office revival. They are planning to have a theatrical release during Christmas 2020 and early 2021, respectively.
While Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi will bring Akshay Kumar back in the cop avatar, Ranveer Singh will be seen in the much-hyped ‘83 as Kapil Dev, who captained India’s first-ever cricket World Cup victory campaign in 1983.