Summering without the summer blockbuster: Why was May such a dry spell at the movies? | Bollywood

Despite Bollywood’s hopeful expectations with big releases such as Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff’s Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, and Ajay Devgn’s Maidaan around the Eid celebrations in April, the box office was left wanting. The anticipated success did not materialize, casting a shadow over May – a month typically bustling with moviegoers eager for summer blockbusters. Instead, it has been unusually quiet. (Further Reading – Crew, Laapataa Ladies: Analyzing the success disparity among female-driven films at the box office and their Netflix releases)

Rajkummar Rao’s Srikanth and Manoj Bajpayee’s Bhaiyya Ji have achieved only a modest degree of success this May 2024

However, this summer lull isn’t solely due to previous underperformances. Nag Ashwin’s highly anticipated science fiction adventure Kalki 2898 AD was put on hold until late June, owing to extensive post-production demands. This created space for smaller-scale movies to seize the spotlight. With no major releases wrestling for attention, films like Rajkummar Rao’s Srikanth, Manoj Bajpayee’s Bhaiyya Ji, Divya Khosla’s Savi, the animated feature Chhota Bheem and the Curse of Damayan, and Rajkummar and Janhvi Kapoor’s Mr & Mrs Mahi were able to make their mark at the box office.

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Summer Vacation Film Slump

While Srikanth and Bhaiyya Ji have enjoyed moderate box office success, their reach and impact remain limited. Srikanth fell short of generating even ₹35 crore within the first fortnight of its release. Bhaiyya Ji had a strong opening with earnings over ₹1 crore, yet its growth has been somewhat regional, with significant traction in areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, thanks to Manoj Bajpayee’s strong fan base in these regions. This month, as well as the previous, failed to deliver a nationwide box office sensation. In contrast, the last memorable movie moment came from Crew, starring the trio of Kareena Kapoor, Tabu, and Kriti Sanon, which premiered at the tail end of March.

Kareena Kapoor, Tabu, Kriti Sanon’s film Crew launched on March 29.
Crew featuring Kareena Kapoor, Tabu, and Kriti Sanon was released on March 29.

The Absence of International Blockbusters

Parents in search of engaging family content during the school break, particular early in Delhi-NCR due to an intense heatwave, will find a lack of Hollywood blockbusters to fill the void. Despite favorable reviews for films like The Fall Guy and Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, foot traffic in theaters has not met the usual blockbuster standards, far from the global excitement titles like Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie have recently generated.

Summer Film Drought in Southern India

Southern Indian film industries are also not contributing any notable titles. In Tamil cinema, Sundar C’s Aranmanai 4 with Tamannaah Bhatia had a promising start, yet the box office has since been underwhelming, similar to the trend in Malayalam cinema after misses like Mammootty’s Turbo in May. Kannada and Telugu cinema have also remained quiet, with no major releases to stir up interest.

The Heatwave Impact

Veteran Telugu cinema exhibitor Suresh Babu shared with Deccan Chronicle the tough decision to close cinemas in Telangana, citing the oppressive summer heat which has deterred audiences, yielding alarmingly low attendance. The expectation for air-conditioned theaters to offer a refuge from the heat has evidently not been enough to attract movie-goers.

Hollywood's offerings like Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga fall short of setting the summer box office ablaze in India
Hollywood offerings like Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga have not managed to spur the usual summer cinema enthusiasm in India.

Domestic Entertainment Shifts

Entertainment habits are migrating away from theaters, with audiences finding satisfaction in other pursuits. From catching up with releases from the past months on digital streaming platforms, such as Netflix, to exploring original series like Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar or enjoying social media content like Instagram Reels. Additionally, with the Indian Premier League consuming the better part of viewers’ schedules, along with the buzz of the electoral season drawing more public interest than the silver screen, the cinema experience is facing stiff competition.

Efforts like slashing ticket prices to ₹99 or offering buy-one-get-one promos have been desperate attempts to stimulate cinema visits, as has the showcasing of previous big hits. Meanwhile, theaters have become accidental snack havens, with concession sales eclipsing ticket revenues. It seems people come for the snacks out of convenience rather than for the films themselves. Going to a cinema remains an option, albeit one that is frequently being passed up this summer. Moving into June and July, with elections concluding and perhaps cooler temperatures, there’s hope among film enthusiasts for the cinematic renaissance they’ve been longing for.

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