Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani will fight out at screens this Friday.

According to the latest media reports, Bajirao Mastani has taken an edge over Dilwale in single screens. If you remember that before the release of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, distributors Eros. International had entered into an agreement with these exhibitors, booking the prominent single screen theatres across the country for their Christmas release, Bajirao Mastani. Though this was in anticipation of the competition posed by Star Wars–The Force Awakens which opens worldwide on December 18.

Later on the Hollywood franchise was pushed a week later, on December 25. But then Bajirao Mastani has to compete with the Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon starrer Dilwale which was announced suddenly. “Shah Rukh probably thought that since Kajol and he were coming together five years after My Name Is Khan and Dilwale was reuniting Rohit Shetty and him after the super success of Chennai Express, the film would be the first choice for all exhibitors,” points out Mehra. But the actor-producer suddenly finds himself stonewalled by the agreement between the exhibitors and Eros which had faced a similar situation during the Jab Tak Hai Jaan and SOS: Son of Sardar Diwali clash on November 13, 2012, and is reportedly in no mood to share screens.

“As of today, Dilwale will not be playing at my Maratha Mandir cinema where Shah Rukh and Kajol’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge ran for 1000 weeks. But we have a meeting scheduled for Wednesday and are hopeful of a positive outcome,” exhibitor Manoj Desai told Mirror, quick to add that the SRK-starrer will play in his Gaiety-Galaxy theatres since multiplex chains are not a part of the agreement and only have to promise equal number of shows with good timings to both films which interestingly have almost the same running time (Dilwale is 155 minutes, Bajirao Mastani 158 minutes).

Back in 2007, the Farah Khan directed reincarnation Om Shanti Om, had come up against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya and the latter had tanked immediately. However, Mehra points out that back then, releases were not announced months, even years in advance, there were fewer multiplexes and films had a longer shelf life. “Today, a film lasts a maximum of three weeks and does its best business during the first weekend, with opening day figures going up to Rs 40-45 crore for a big film like Bajrangi Bhaijaan. With two big films coming together, this figure will get divided straightaway and the film stands to lose Rs 60-75 crore from its first week’s collection irrespective of merit. In the circumstances, expecting a lifetime’s business of Rs 300 crore would be wishful thinking,” he reasons, adding that this scenario will be an eye opener for future films like Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees and Salman Khan’s Sultan which are poised for another `war’ during 2016 Eid.

However, JP Chowksey, President of the Film Federation of India and the Central Circuit Cine Association, offers a completely different picture. He informs that this `battle royale’ was not supposed to happen initially. “Bajirao Mastani was scheduled for December 18 and Dilwale was coming a week, later on, December 25. But then some distributors in Delhi and UP started booking single screen theatres in these territories for two weeks instead of the stipulated oneweek run. When Shah Rukh learnt this, he decided to take on his rivals,” says Chowksey.

He adds that in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and western Maharashtra both films have got an equal number of shows even in single screen theatres. “Punjab doesn’t have even one single theatre left and down South, Dilwale has got a bigger share. It’s only in Delhi, UP and parts of Maharashtra that Bajirao Mastani is ahead. But there’s still two days to go,” he says. When asked to what extent single screens contribute to the business, he said, “Multiplexes contribute 65 per cent to the business while single screens are limited to 35 per cent but they are equally important. Unfortunately, there are only 8,500 such theatres remain across India. Multiplexes have only cropped up in the last 12 years while single screens have been there for 90 years. Unless we increase their number, the industry will shut shop in five years.”

Meanwhile, all eyes are on Friday with a lot at stake for both the films and the industry at large. SRK’s marketing savvy and the curiosity over his reunion with Kajol is rivalled by Ranveer-Deepika’s chemistry and Bhansali’s magic.

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Via Times of India