The big fat Eid-ul-Azha movie clash that transpired over the past week was bound to have its repercussions. In a cinematic landscape that was slowly bumbling forwards on the strength of a few mediocre local releases, three major producers decided to release their movies simultaneously.
Suddenly, three major contenders had swooped in, their sights set on that one festive weekend which tends to generate profits: ARY Films with Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 (JPNA2), Hum Films with Parwaaz Hai Junoon (PHJ) and Filmwala Pictures with Load Wedding.
It was only inevitable that while profits would run high for some, they could possibly take a downslide for the others. According to various cinematic figures, JPNA2 is leading with box office collections of over Rs 25 crores globally within five days of its release. PHJ followed with earnings of Rs 12.684 crores within four days with Load Wedding surprisingly bringing in just Rs 6.5 crores in the first four days.
These numbers are quite unexpected for one expected Load Wedding to fare much better at the box office. The movie is helmed under the banner of Filmwala Pictures by Nabeel Qureshi and Fizza Ali Meerza, the duo that has earlier churned out hits like Na Maloom Afraad, Na Maloom Afraad 2 and Actor in Law.
Given that Nabeel and Fizza are experienced filmmakers, it would make lucrative sense for Load Wedding to be given a fair number of shows. And yet, there is clear evidence that the movie is not being prioritized.
Two of the country’s biggest stars, Fahad Mustafa and Mehwish Hayat, play the main leads in the movie and the music has received well. Released during a long holiday week, the first week’s earning should ideally have been much much more.
“We couldn’t earn more in the first week because local cinemas did not give us enough shows,” says Load Wedding’s director Nabeel Qureshi. “The majority of shows were allotted to JPNA2, then to PHJ and finally, some to us and others to Teefa In Trouble, a movie that was released more than a month ago. I keep getting messages from people who want to see my movie but are unable to because there aren’t any shows that are available. I feel so disheartened that I feel like quitting filmmaking.”
But why would cinema exhibitors deliberately bring down one movie while pumping up the others? Cinemas earn primarily from commissions on ticket sales and given that Nabeel and Fizza are experienced, well-respected filmmakers, it would make lucrative sense for Load Wedding to be given a fair number of shows. And yet, there is clear evidence that the movie is not being prioritized.
One week after its release, the movie already has limited shows in mainstream cinemas. On Sunday 26th August, the movie was only allotted a single 6 p.m. show in Universal Cinemas Multan while JPNA2 was given five shows and PHJ four shows. The cinema schedules for Cinepax Amanah Mall Lahore for Wednesday 29th August and Thursday 30th August have Load Wedding being screened only once at 12.10 p.m. while many more shows – and more optimal timings – have been slotted for the other two movies.
At Nueplex D.H.A. Karachi, Load Wedding has three shows for Saturday, 1st September while JPNA2 has 14 shows and PHJ has nine shows. Nueplex Rashid Minhas Road Karachi, meanwhile, has slotted seven shows to Load Wedding, 14 to PHJ, five to Teefa In Trouble and 12 to JPNA2 for this Saturday.
For Thursday 30th August, Universal Cinemas within Emporium Mall in Lahore has allocated 19 shows to JPNA2, 10 to Load Wedding, 15 to PHJ and five to Teefa in Trouble. The Saturday, 1st September schedule at ME Cinemas in Centaurus Mall Islamabad has set aside five shows each for JPNA2 and PHJ, three for Load Wedding, four to Teefa In Trouble and one each to Bollywood release Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se and Hollywood movie Kin.
Load Wedding is no longer being shown at Cinepax Faisalabad.
“How can the movie survive like this? After the first weekend, a filmmaker looks forward to earning more over the next weekend. But within two weeks, they have cut our shows down to abysmally low numbers,” Load Wedding’s producer, Fizza Ali Meerza observes. “I feel that a lot of the fault lies with our distributors, IMGC, who didn’t make sure that the movie got enough screens. Still, I had thought that word of mouth would result in an increased demand and would result in a larger number of shows.”
Nabeel has been quite vocal on Twitter, declaring, ‘Bohot dhandli hai…’
But cinema exhibitors have their own takes on the situation. Jamil Baig, the owner of Nueplex Cinemas, explains, “We were very fair during Eid weekend and reserved equal halls for Load Wedding, JPNA2 and PHJ. But when the demand was more for the other two movies, we had to reschedule shows accordingly. Fahad Mustafa has a huge fan following in Karachi but people also get to see him in JPNA2. Perhaps that also didn’t work in Load Wedding’s favour. Regardless, we are still allotting some shows to Load Wedding during timings that are high in demand. Perhaps ticket sales will pick up.”
There are cases of movies winning critical acclaim but not commercial success. Could Load Wedding become an unfortunate example of this? Are there truly unfair practices at play in this case?
Farhan Javed, Head of Marketing Operations at Universal Cinemas, elaborates, “We have to look at the movies that are more in demand and schedule show timings accordingly. We had always expected JPNA2 to be a big hit, given that it’s the sequel to the highest grossing Pakistani movie ever, Jawani Phir Nahi Ani. But we had also expected more audiences to want to see Load Wedding. We look at which movies were running to full houses and have greater advance bookings and plan out the shows for the next week.”
It is likely that sharing its male lead – Fahad Mustafa – with another major release may have been detrimental for Load Wedding. The movie also hasn’t been promoted as much as the other two contenders. The ARY Network has pulled out all stops in promoting JPNA2 while the HUM Network is fully invested in making PHJ a blockbuster.
With GEO as their media partner, Load Wedding is also quite visible on TV but the channel is not wholly invested in the movie’s success or failure, resulting in less pre-release hype.
It is important to note that while Load Wedding may be suffering in some cinemas, in others – the country-wide Cinepax chain, Nueplex Karachi, Atrium Cinemas among them – there are still a reasonable numbers of shows being allotted to the movie. Perhaps, word of mouth will ensure that ticket sales pick up?
“Perhaps, but the right shows at the right timings need to be made available even to benefit it,” points out Nabeel. “People are posting rave reviews of Load Wedding and I can justly say that I am being praised much more for this than I have for my past movies. I blame my distributors for this situation but I also expect cinema exhibitors to give their support.”
And yet, there are cases of movies winning critical acclaim but not commercial success. Could Load Wedding become an unfortunate example of this? Are there truly unfair practices at play in this case? Some very loaded questions right there that may never get answered.