Yash Raj Films announced on February 16 that prices for Pathaan would be slashed to Rs 110 for all shows across the country on February 17. This was to celebrate the success of Pathaan. Interestingly enough, Kartik Aaryan’s Shehzada was slated to release on February 17 as well. And thanks to the Pathaan price slash, Shehzada’s producers at the T-Series office were feeling the heat. There were a few closed door meetings, but the think tank wasn’t able to come up with a counter to the Pathaan move.
That wasn’t the end of the price war. YRF announced the next day that prices for Pathaan would be limited to Rs 200 for the entire weekend of February 18 and 19. Shehzada was in its first weekend and in comparison offering premium ticket prices, like every new release, to cash in on the opening weekend frenzy. So in the war of low versus high ticket prices, did Pathaan manage to dent Shehzada’s collections? Or did Kartik Aaryan’s massy entertainer simply not have the required razzmatazz to mesmerise the audience? ETimes speaks to trade gurus Komal Nahata, Akshaye Rathi, Girish Johar and Atul Mohan to find out the truth.
‘Pathaan’s reduced ticket prices were to encourage repeat viewing’
Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi believes Pathaan and Shehzada were catering to different audiences and the difference in price tickets was irrelevant. He explains, “I don’t think films eat into each other’s business for the simple reason that Pathaan is in its fourth week at these (discounted) rates and Shehzada is in its first week. So, people who wanted to watch Pathaan for the first time have already watched it. Right now what these ticket rates are encouraging is repeat viewing.”
Girish Johar feels the Pathaan strategy did make a dent in Shehzada’s box office glory, but not in any significant manner. He explains, “YRF did make a strategy of lowering the ticket rates. I feel it dented Shehzada’s business on a minuscule level because Pathaan had already been watched by the audiences. Maybe a small percentage of people who wanted a repeat viewing went back to the theatres.”
Trade guru Komal Nahta is more succinct in his analysis as he says, “Since Pathaan is in its 4th week, it cannot affect a new film.” Senior trade analyst Atul Mohan isn’t as brief in his summation of the situation. Instead he puts the blame squarely on Shehzada’s content. Mohan says, “YRF’s strategy to keep the ticket prices at 110 and 200 over the weekend was aimed at attracting audiences who may have missed the film during its initial premium rates or those who wished to watch it again. However, it is important to note that the lukewarm response of Shehzada at the box office was not related to the ticket prices. For instance, Bhool Bhulaiya 2 achieved blockbuster status despite having premium ticket rates, except for the first day, when they too had cheaper ticket prices.”
Mohan further explains his opinion stating, “Ultimately, the success or failure of a film depends on audience preference. If audiences like a film, they will be willing to pay any price to watch it if they can afford. Conversely, if they dislike it, they will not turn up even if it’s available for free. Therefore, attributing the film’s performance to ticket prices is merely an excuse to cover up the debacle.”
‘There was no Pathaan versus Shehzada’
Interestingly, Shehzada’s release had been postponed from February 10 to 17. The makers of Shehzada had put out messaging that they did so to respect the success of SRK and Pathaan. Ironic then, that Pathaan ate into the business of Shehzada, or did it? Akshaye Rathi believes there was no direct competition. He explains, “I don’t think the box office of Pathaan has affected Shehzada at all. I don’t think any movie affects the box office of any other movie. Beyond a point the only thing that can affect the box office of a film is its own merits or demerits. Pathaan had its 3-week long run, pretty much exhausted the bulk of its business and right now it’s witnessing the long tail of its business.”
Komal Nahta is of the opinion that Shehzada’s poor run didn’t need a Pathaan success story. He says, “Nothing affected Shehzada more than its own mediocrity and dated screenplay. Pathaan is in its 4th week and it’s not like Pathaan is running to full houses right now.” Atul Mohan resonates similar sentiments and adds, “Pathaan had already completed its 3 weeks and entered 4th week by the time Shehzada opened. During this time, Pathaan had already generated its peak business, well before Shehzada even entered the market to compete.”
‘Was the shift in Shehzada’s release date hara-kiri?’
Atul Mohan feels that the decision to postpone Shehzada’s release date was not sensible. He explains, “To begin with, the decision to postpone the film was a blunder committed by the makers, as it sent the wrong message to the audience. Additionally, the city tours were not strategically planned, and the marketing focus solely on them was, in my opinion, a waste of time, effort and money as it does not necessarily guarantee the success of the film. The makers could have thought of incorporating Allu Arjun into the promotional activity, such as including conversations between Allu and Kartik, among other strategies. While the size of the release was optimal, the timing was not. Pitching the film against Ant-Man and postponing its release was a grave mistake.”
Akshay Rathi feels the postponement is irrelevant in wake of the fact that Shehzada’s content didn’t connect with the audience. He says, “In retrospect, people can say that Shehzada would have done better if it had released on Feb 10 instead of Feb 17. It would have been movie of the week without Ant-Man approaching. Ultimately, the bottom-line is that you can come on Diwali and be a flop and come in the middle of Ramadan and become a blockbuster, purely on the basis of your content and entertainment value, and the kind of traction that your movie has with the audience at large.”
Girish Johar is of the opinion that Shehzada was marketed quite decently. But he offers an explanation stating, “They went all out in promotions. But I think the last-minute change in the release date was not the right decision. They had an open week which any producer would want at the box office window. They shifted the release date and came bang opposite to Ant-Man. I think that was not the right move for them. It showed a lack of confidence in their own product. Kartik Aaryan was coming after the success of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. So, you need to give your film that respect.”
Komal Nahta brings in a new perspective as he says, “Had Shehzada released on Feb 10, it would’ve got some benefit on February 14 due to Valentine’s Day. But there are chances that the Valentine’s Day benefit would’ve been offset by the opposition posed by Pathaan in its 3rd week.”
‘Was it Marvel’s Ant-Man that killed Shehzada?’
The short answer is ‘No!’. But they say divinity is in thr details. Akshaye Rathi explains, “I don’t think Ant-Man affected the business of Shehzada to a large extent for the simple reason that both movies are performing to occupancy levels which are significantly below the capacity that exists. And both movies have an audience of their own and between as many movie goers as we have in this country, both movies could have co-existed fabulously if both had the merits to do equally well.”
Girish Johar jumps in to offer a out-of-the-box perspective and explains “Ant-Man also collected around 25 crores in its first weekend. Had that not been there, and even if we share 50 percent of what Ant-Man got with Shehzada’s solo weekend, that could have been a good result.”
Regardless of whether it was Pathaan or Ant-Man in the ring with Shehzada, neither action hero was the one who showed up the prince. The Shehzada could just not find his groove.