MUMBAI: Beating back boycott calls, Shah Rukh Khan starrer "Pathaan" is set for the biggest opening for any Hindi film with 4.19 lakh tickets sold till Tuesday and 80 per cent occupancy on day one, even for early morning shows beginning at 6 am or 7 am, say industry insiders.
The film, which releases across 5,000 screens on Wednesday, could well signal a happy 2023 for an industry grappling with crippling losses following the Covid pandemic and a string of box office duds. The ticket surge is being seen in multiplexes, single screen theatres and also in the south.
"The film is going to take a historic start at the box office with opening day collections of Rs 45 crore to Rs 50 crore. The box office revival will begin with Pathaan', especially looking at its advance booking. This is very rare. And tomorrow is a working day," trade analyst Taran Adarsh told PTI.
"This film is going to break the advance booking of KGF 2' and will do a business of Rs 45 crore to 50 crore," agreed Rajendra Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at multiplex chain INOX.
"We have 7 am shows at Inox and almost 80 per cent of it is full. The early morning shows are happening in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Kolkata and a few others," Jyala told PTI.
The Yash Raj Films production, which marks Shah Rukh's return as a hero after 2018's "Zero", will get a five-day extended opening weekend as it releases the day before Republic Day.
The advances of "Pathaan" have exceeded all expectation, added Kamal Gianchandani, president of the Multiplex Association of India.
"It's a foregone conclusion that tomorrow's opening would be the biggest for any Hindi film," he said.
There have been early morning shows before but the excitement for "Pathaan" is unprecedented with cinema halls in various cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon, opening for a 6 am or a 7 am show, he said.
"It will be a record breaking opening tomorrow. It is tough to put a number. 'KGF 2' Hindi version had minted Rs 52.5 crore, this will exceed that," he estimated.
Adarsh on Monday tweeted that the film's ticket sales are around 4.19 lakh -- and counting.
"Ticket sales of Day 1 #Hindi and #Hindi dubbed films NOTE: National chains only. 1. #Baahubali2 #Hindi 4.50 lacs 2.#KGF2 #Hindi 5.15 lacs 3.#Pathaan 4. 19 lacs* (1 day pending) 4. #War 4. 10 5. #TOH 3.46 lacs," he tweeted.
According to a release by YRF, "Pathaan" is the first Shah Rukh film to open in over 100 plus countries, the highest for any YRF film so far.
"In fact, it is the widest release for an Indian film globally! Shah Rukh Khan is hands down the biggest superstar internationally and there is unparalleled demand for Pathaan' to be released across the world given the hype that the film is carrying," said Nelson D'Souza, vice president, international distribution, YRF.
"We are very bullish about Pathaan' and what it can collect from the overseas territories. It should be able to bring the cheer back in the theatrical distribution business at the start of the year."
Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director, PVR Limited, added that there has been phenomenal advance booking at their 903 screens across India.
"This will be the first SRK film that will open at 6 am in PVR cinemas. A movie truly made for the Big Screen experience, we are seeing an increasing preference to watch this movie in our premium formats like IMAX, ICE, 4DX and P [XL]," Bijli said.
According to leading ticketing platform BookMyShow (BMS), over 10 lakh tickets have been sold for the coming days till now.
"The response across India has been phenomenal with cinephiles choosing a cinematic experience as they opt for varied formats including 2D, IMAX and 4DX across cities," Ashish Saksena, COO, Cinemas, BookMyShow, said in a statement.
It is also one of the first films from Bollywood that's leading the charts in advance booking in the south.
"South India has been particularly impressive showcasing an upward trajectory with Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru contributing almost 30 percent of the overall advance sales so far," said Saksena.
The film is enjoying bumper advance booking in single screen theatres as well.
Mumbai's popular single-screen theatres Gaiety, Galaxy and Maratha Mandir have ticket bookings of 70 to 80 per cent, said Manoj Desai, executive director of the theatres.
"For the first time, we are having morning shows starting from 9 am for SRK fan clubs, who have almost booked the entire theatre," Desai said, adding, the ticket prices have been kept nominal in the range of Rs 130 to Rs 160.
In more good news for the film industry, about 25 cinemas, which were shut down due to Covid, are reopening for "Pathaan" given the unprecedented buzz.
These include Kohinoor Cinema in Suratgarh, (Rajasthan), Lajwanti Talkies in Bishrampur, (Chhattisgarh) and Prabhat Talkies in Bina, (Madhya Pradesh).
The film, directed by Siddharth Anand and also featuring Deepika Padukone and John Abraham in the lead, was at the centre of a huge debate over its song "Besharam Rang". Deepika has several costume changes, including a saffron bikini, in the song. Several right-wing groups burned effigies and posters of the movie, alleging that the film hurt Hindu religious sentiments.
Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra took objection to Deepika's saffron bikini, saying it was "highly objectionable", leading to hashtags of 'boycott Pathaan' and 'ban Pathaan'. Many other politicians joined Mishra in criticising the film.
Shah Rukh took a break from movies after the lukewarm performance of "Zero". Between then and now, the actor has only made cameo appearances in R Madhavan's "Rocketry: The Nambi Effect" (Hindi version) and Ayan Mukerji's blockbuster "Brahmastra Part One: Shiva".