It's All In The Numbers
By MovieTalkies.com, 20 June 2011
Every so often, we here about people talking about the "formula" for a hit film. Come on, we've all heard those conversations which go something like "take X hero, it has to be Y genre, throw in an 'item number' with Z actress, take A for the music... and you'll be guaranteed a hit for sure." Of course if discovering the formula to hit films was that simplistic, why would any producer make a flop film? So, most people believe that there is no formula at all and it is completely dependent on the audience's mood and fancy that particular Friday as to whether a film will rise or tank at the box office.
But in reality, there is actually a bit of science to this whole madness and it boils down to a whole bunch of numbers, which aren't "rocket science". Every script has a certain audience, first based just on its story and the potential reach that a story like that, with the desired treatment, can reach out to. On assessment it could be that the script is fabulous, cinematically brilliant but has the potential to only reach out to a limited audience who will enjoy that type of film and be able to connect with it. Or it could be that it is a pretty average script which has the potential to connect to an extremely wide audience because it is one which will entertain all and connect in some way with every single person.
Now, the problem begins in the way we go about casting for these scripts and locking budgets. It's no surprise that the highest cost head for any film with top stars is usually the cost of actors and that is where many a film tends to falter. If a film has the potential to appeal to hypothetically, only the urban audience, why do we make those films with a budget that in turn requires the film to do strong business with the mass audiences across not just the metros and mini metros, but also the smaller towns and single screen audiences? It would probably make more sense to set the production cost of such films lower, keeping in mind the potential audience in all practicality and not as some stroke of over optimism in which we think that we can widen the audience for that script by taking bigger stars! That never seems to work.
Guzaarish is by all standards a film which was well made, good cinema and possibly could have even been a box office hit if it was made on a lower budget because the potential audience for a film which appeals mostly to the urban SEC A+ audience and has a large chunk of the dialogues in English was always going to be only so much. And taking two huge stars, didn't help the film reach the mass audience it needed to in order to recover costs. Why, because even though the stars appealed to them, the film just didn't not connect or appeal to that mass audience. And yet of course the film was made on a tighter budget than Ready which is a colossal hit at the box office. Reason? Because Ready has a script and treatment which reached out to the masses, and appealed to the lowest common denominator (LCD). Add to that the darling of the masses, Salman Khan, and in spite of his high cost, the numbers were destined to work on the film because the potential audience was extremely wide.
Other films which have kept their cost of production tight have gone overboard with marketing expenses again making it impossible to recover costs. Take Shaitan for example which is a film made for a particular niche audience, with a tight production budget, but Studio 18 may have gone a couple of crores overboard with their advertising spend, making it impossible to break even at the box office. Could be wrong about that as the film is still in theatres, but it's an extremely likely scenario which is quite sad considering it's a good film which has been well received by the intended audience. But that same audience would probably have still gone in to see the film, even if the marketing budget wasn't as high.