‘Pushpa 2,’ ‘Singham 3,’ ‘Bade Miyan Chote Miyan’ Potential Hits, but Distributor Predicts Weaker 2024 Bollywood Global Box Office

Despite a resurgent 2023 for Bollywood both at home and overseas, the industry’s international box office performance is likely to be weaker in 2024, a leading U.K. distributor has said.

London-based Pranab Kapadia, a seasoned Bollywood media executive with stints at studios Eros and Zee, now runs U.K. distribution company Moviegoers Entertainment, whose distribution roster includes hits “Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” (2023) and 2022’s “The Legend of Maula Jatt,” “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2” and “Jugjugg Jeeyo.” Kapadia also serves as a producer with Hope Productions (“Chup”).

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Accurate box office numbers for Indian films are notoriously difficult to come by and fragmented. Moviegoers painstakingly compiles box office numbers from a variety of reliable sources.

Bollywood had total box office collections of $1.5 billion in 2023, of which $350 million came from the international market, according to numbers compiled by Moviegoers. This was 30% higher than pandemic-affected 2022, but 20% lower than pre-pandemic 2019. Kapadia attributes the lower numbers to audiences getting used to watching films at home during the pandemic.

“Films with big actors, big productions and spectacle cinema, those are always going to be preferred on the big screen, but a slice-of-life drama, or multiplex films, those clearly are now for digital viewing,” Kapadia told Variety. The top 10 Indian films of 2023 bear out this stance, as they star A-listers Shah Rukh Khan (“Jawan,” “Pathaan,” co-starring Deepika Padukone, “Dunki”), Ranbir Kapoor (“Animal”), Prabhas (“Salaar”), Sunny Deol (“Gadar 2”), Rajinikanth (“Jailer”), Vijay (“Leo”), Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif (“Tiger 3”) and Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt (“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani”).

In India, Indian films without marquee names can find acceptance at the box office. But that is rarely the case internationally.

Kapadia provides the example of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s “12th Fail,” an inspirational slice-of-life drama based on a true story. The film stars Vikrant Massey (Netflix film “Haseen Dillruba”) and Medha Shankar (Busan, Golden Horse and Palm Springs title “Max, Min and Meowzaki”), who while being exceptional actors, have yet to attain megastar status. The modestly-budgeted film proved to be a sleeper hit in India with $7.8 million, but collected just $240,000 globally, including £42,000 ($53,000) in the U.K. and $150,000 in the U.S.

Kapadia says that a possible solution for the success of smaller films like “12th Fail” in international markets is a focused release. “Start small, if you have an 80% occupancy in 10 screens, that’s better than having 25 screens with 40% occupancy. Because the distribution and exhibition trade works like that. When the numbers are higher than the inventory you’ve taken from them, that encourages them to give you a second week and a third week,” Kapadia said.

Among immediate 2024 releases, Kapadia has high hopes for Jan. 25 release, Indian Air Force epic “Fighter,” starring Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor. Looking forward to the rest of the year, Kapadia anticipates that action film “Bade Miyan Chote Miyan,” starring Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff and Prithviraj Sukumaran, expected to release in April during the Eid holiday frame; August 15, Independence Day holiday action releases “Singham Again,” the third part of the Singham franchise starring Ajay Devgn and “Pushpa – The Rule: Part 2,” starring Allu Arjun, the sequel to 2021 blockbuster “Pushpa – The Rise: Part 1”; and sports drama “Maidaan,” also starring Devgn, to be big hits. While the Pushpa franchise is not technically Bollywood, being made in the Telugu language and dubbed into Hindi, linguistic lines are increasingly blurring.

Kapadia also anticipates keen business for Moviegoers’ next two releases, hijack thriller “Yodha,” starring Sidharth Malhotra, due March 15, and an untitled romcom starring Vicky Kaushal and Triptii Dimri. However, the overall 2024 box office will be lower he says. “This year is going to be weaker, because there’s no SRK [Shah Rukh Khan],” Kapadia said. After a five-year hiatus, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan roared back in 2023 with “Jawan,” “Pathan,” the top two Bollywood films of the year both in India and internationally, and “Dunki,” which placed ninth on the Top 10 chart. The superstar does not have a release in 2024.

Part of Kapadia’s outlook for 2024 is “getting results for good cinema, which is an inherently fantastic sign for box office. You can’t rely just on the marquee films and you got to be progressive, right? You can’t just have the formula films that are doing the big numbers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kapadia will continue adhering to his distribution philosophy, which is, “essentially aligning with producers who value your passion, because there’s a piece of soul that goes into making, and there’s a piece of your soul that goes even into releasing the film, I believe. Because you got to fight for your film, you got to live your film, you got to feel every day, every show that you are associated with the film, that this is history unfolding, and you have to own it like it’s your baby.”

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