KARAN JOHAR and RAJU HIRANI
Though it's more of a rule than exception in Hollywood, paid previews have pretty much started getting into a vogue when it comes to Hindi film industry. Though premier shows for the select bigwigs and elite have been a tradition for half a century, doors being opened for regular audiences a night before have started becoming popular only now.
One of the first such instances when a paid preview had emerged as a rousing success was Shah Rukh Khan's DON - THE CHASE BEGINS AGAIN (2006). The early arrival of this Farhan Akhtar film had surprised everyone and soon there were few more films that started taking the 'risk' of arriving earlier and in the process get exposed to early criticism, millions of SMS reviews and phone calls before the next show began 12 hours later.
'See, you need to know about your product before you decide to go ahead and host a preview show', reasons Karan Johar, 'In fact in West some movies dare to open even two days before their global release. Yes, at the end of the day it's about taking a chance but then it has to be an intelligent choice being made.'
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While Aamir Khan's GHAJINI stays on to be biggest revenue earner when it comes to paid previews (it added at least a couple of crores to it's eventual total due to the doors being opened for audiences an evening before the global release), it turned out to be a disastrous decision for Akshay Kumar starrer CHANDNI CHOWK TO CHINA where negative reviews spread like a wild fire.
Says a film maker (whose move to come up with paid previews backfired) on condition of anonymity, 'I have promised myself that I will never host a paid preview again. Some vested interests start spreading SMSs all over and regardless of the fact whether your film is actually good or bad, some (intentional) poor word of mouth does reflect on the Friday collections. Ok, so after that it's the movie which does all the talking but still, why take a risk for a few extra lakhs?'
This week, Hollywood's own AVATAR too is expected to open it's doors well in advance.
'Well, I don't really think much about such things', reflects Raj Kumar Hirani whose 3 IDIOTS is all set to host multiple paid previews before it's stipulated 25th December release, 'I guess this new phenomenon is more from distribution point of view. It's something new because for my first two films, there weren't any paid previews.'
Karan Johar continues to support the entire idea of paid previews. 'I guess it only gives a zing to a film hours before its worldwide release', says Karan who did see good turnout for both KURBAAN as well as his earlier production WAKE UP SID as far as Thursday collections are concerned. Though WAKE UP SID benefited from all the word of mouth, KURBAAN was hailed by the critics but didn't find many takers from the 'aam junta' which didn't quite some up with an enthusiastic response.
Karan Johar is undeterred though. 'If the film has to run, it will', he shrugs, 'In any case on Friday the clearer picture does emerge so why not arrive on Thursday night itself and create some additional excitement? Also, one can't ignore the quantum of revenue that a film ends up earning. It's a nice little bonus and if the word of mouth goes on to be positive then there can't be anything better, right?'
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Supports Hirani, 'I guess it's a good marketing tool. If a film has to work well, it will regardless of whether it opens a night earlier. In fact I would be more worried about whether people like the film or not instead of thinking around whether I should come on Thursday or Friday. On a different note, rather than encouraging people to buy tickets in black to beat the Friday morning rush, isn't it better to give them some extra shows so that they can watch it by paying the correct ticket amount?'
Well, going by the trend, it can be safely presumed that paid previews aren't going anywhere. Yes, a production house like Yash Raj Films (which is known for not showing it's films even to press till Friday release; case in point being their recent release ROCKET SINGH SALESMAN OF THE YEAR) may well refrain from it. However, other biggies won't quite let go off the opportunity to earn that extra buck regardless of the risk involved.
As Karan Johar concludes, 'Paid previews are there to stay.'