Honesty in film distribution key to successful opening weekend

MUMBAI: With the explosion of multiplexes, Indian filmmakers are increasingly putting importance on the performance of a film in the first weekend. The days of the Silver and Golden jubilee are long gone.

While a strong star cast and a well-armed publicity machinery play a big role, filmmakers must also be honest with audiences and to themselves when they market and distribute their films.

This was one of the points made during a session on "Opening Weekend: How To Get The Audience In?" The speakers were Eros Multimedia COO Jyoti Deshpande, Specialtreats CEO Colin Burrows, film critic Komal Nahata, P9 CEO Naveen Shah and filmmaker Kunal Kohli.

Nahata made several points about what film distributors should keep in mind. One of these is that they should be honest while marketing and distributing their films. Having cameos of huge stars in big flicks and keeping that under wraps works the best for a project. Examples of this would be Aishwarya Rai in Mohabbtein and Salman Khan in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain.

He highlighted the lack of new talent in the industry. Along with that, Nahata added that a hit pair may not necessarily guarantee a sure-shot success story. For instance, Hrithik Roshan-Aishwarya Rai starrer Jodhaa Akhbar did not garner a good opening weekend.

As far as the smaller, independent films are concerned, it is very important that they offer novelty in terms of content and presentation. In addition, hit music makes a great package.

Deshpande stressed the scientific way of achieving the desired opening weekend. She notes that unlike the US, in India the DVD market is not big enough to help a film that has done poorly in theatres. So relying on the opening weekend helps mitigate risks. She also addressed the new trend of individual producers hopping to big distributors, and the entry of corporates changing the scenario for existing production houses.

But is the opening weekend the be-all and end-all? Kohli answered in the negative saying that a good film can survive a slow start. He offered the examples of Munnabhai MBBS, which had absolutely no marketing gimmicks lined up, but did very well.

He also offered examples of Chak De which did well beyond just the opening weekend. Intelligent marketing can help a film that does not have big stars. He gave the example of Hum Tum where the distributor did tie ups with MTV, Sony for the show Jassi as well as cartons in The Times of India.

Another way of marketing a movie today, rightly pointed out by Navin Shah, CEO, P9, is merchandising. The best example of the same would be 2007‘s Om Shanti Om which tied up with Shoppers Stop. And if that doesn‘t work for the production house, myriad television channels are waiting to cash in on big stars to augment their TRPs. And in return, the forthcoming film gets huge mileage.

However, lastly what does a small-budget project do in situation like this? The solution offered by Kohli is market it the big way and pitch it against a big-budget film. Loins of Punjab and Mithya are the perfect instances of the same.

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