The year 2022 has seen a number of movies bomb at the box office both in India and abroad. Many high-budget, big-budget action extravaganzas fell apart when they were released in theaters. In many cases, poor word of mouth due to negative reviews contributed to the cause. However, these films have seen a resurgence upon their digital release, with many of them topping the charts on their respective platforms. A look at this curious new trend. Also read: Kangana Ranaut defends herself after Dhaakad’s failure at the box office
Few superhero movies in recent times have done as amusingly bad as Morbius. The film about the titular Marvel antihero was universally panned by critics. My own review called it an ‘expensive April fool’. Despite all that, Sony Pictures released it twice. It flopped both times. Shortened to four months later, the film arrived on Netflix, where it promptly began dominating the service’s global top ten movies list. It has been in the top 2 of the list for almost two weeks now.
Morbius has several parallels at home in Hindi cinema, which has seen quite a few flops this year. John Abraham’s Attack, Kangana Ranaut’s Dhaakad and Aditya Roy Kapur’s Rashtra Kavach OM were all disappointments at the box office and only deserved 22 million, 8 crore, and 9 crore, respectively. The combined budgets of these films were: 200 crores. But each of these films was the number one film on Zee5, the platform where they were all released after the theatrical release. Dhaakad, one of the biggest flops in Kangana’s career, reached 60 million minutes of viewing within a week of being dropped on the streaming platform.
The only common thread in most of these films is their genre. They are largely action movies or thrillers with a big budget. Streaming platforms say the positive response to the genre as a whole on OTT has helped these titles. Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 India, said: “From RRR to Attack and Dhaakad to Rashtra Kavach OM, action as a genre works has received an overwhelming response from the audience on the platform. At ZEE5 we are extremely happy to be in it managed to meet audience expectations with diverse content that appeals to them.”
Manish gives the example of the latest release from his platform: Vidyut Jammwal starrer Khuda Haafiz: Chapter 2 – Agni Pariksha. “It continued to clock in at 77 million minutes of streaming within a week of its release (on OTT), even after its theatrical release,” he says. Khuda Haafiz 2 was a disappointment at the box office. Despite a 30 crore budget, it managed to make alone 14 crores from the theatrical release.
But that still doesn’t explain why films already rejected in one medium find lovers in another. “Some people watch a movie on OTT that they just didn’t want to spend $200 on for a movie ticket. But when it comes to streaming and they already have a subscription, they look at it. That increases the reach of these films. And there are many of those people who like it, at least in a casual way,” says one exhibitor.
However, some advise taking this trend with a grain of salt. “The numbers of streaming platforms must be interpreted correctly. The number of minutes does not always say how many people have watched the film. Maybe someone just watched for 15 minutes out of curiosity. And a big movie is always trendsetting on a platform the week of its release,” said trade analyst Atul Mohan.
But even taking that into account, there’s no denying that these films are reaching a wider audience due to their subsequent digital release. And because they don’t have word of mouth for weeks after the original reviews, they do find newer fans, giving these ‘failed’ films a second life.