Is Brahmastra hit or flop? Explaining the economics of box office collections, budgets, and recovery

Bollywood Entertainment


Much has been said, written, tweeted, and discussed about the box office collections of Brahmastra Part One- Shiva. The film has, as per its own producers, earned 360 crore in gross box office collections worldwide. That is a big number, the highest for any Hindi film this year, in fact. Yet, there are many who are reluctant to label the film a hit. To them, the rider is the film’s massive 410-crore budget. It sounds logical- how can a film be called successful unless it recovers the producers’ investment. I’ll try and simplify this argument and explain what goes into deciding whether a film is a hit, flop, or somewhere in between. Also read: Brahmastra’s reported budget figures are ‘all wrong’, says Ranbir Kapoor

Why box office collections and budget both matter

Let us first have a look at the bare numbers. As of Monday night, day 11 of the film’s release, Brahmastra had earned 220 crore nett in all languages across India. In addition, the film has around 80 crore nett overseas collection, giving it a neat 300 crore net collection worldwide. Note that the figure is lower than its gross collection, as that involves the entertainment and service taxes levied by authorities. In reality, the figure earned by the industry is always the nett collection.

Now comes the tricky part. Just because two films earn the same amount of money doesn’t always mean both have been equally successful. In this case, the best comparison for Brahmastra is The Kashmir Files, which released just four months ago. The film had a nett collection of around 290 crore (gross of 340 crore), pretty much the same as Brahmastra. However, The Kashmir Files’ production budget was just 15 crore, as compared to 410 crore for Brahmastra. Hence, The Kashmir Files is a genuine blockbuster while the jury is still out for Brahmastra. Let it complete its run and we will see where it ends up.

Anupam Kher in a still from The Kashmir Files, one of the most cost-effective Hindi films in recent times.
Anupam Kher in a still from The Kashmir Files, one of the most cost-effective Hindi films in recent times.

The bottom line is that a film’s budget is very important in determining its status. Trade analyst Atul Mohan explains, “The budget does play an important role in determining a film’s status at the box office. A film needs to recover its landing cost with its nett earnings at the box office to be called a hit. If it does less, it can be called anything from below average to flop, depending on how much less it has earned. Similarly, how much more it earns as compared to its budget determines whether it’s a superhit or a blockbuster.” The amount a film earns over its landing cost is called its recovery. Simply put, a film needs to have at least 1 of recovery to be called a hit.

What is landing cost and how much is that for Brahmastra

The term landing cost, for a film, refers to all the money spent by the makers on it, including the production budget, the publicity budget, and other miscellaneous expenses. The trouble is that such figures are hardly ever made public by producers, so one has to go with sources. Most reports and sources give that oft-quoted figure of 410 crore as Brahmastra’s production budget. Other sources like Andhra Box Office and Kangana Ranaut’s social media posts claim the film’s budget is 650 crore. Could that be the landing cost? Who knows except Karan Johar or Ayan Mukerji!

Adding to the confusion is a recent statement by the film’s star Ranbir Kapoor that the film’s budget is spread over three parts. Brahmastra Part One-Shiva is the first of a trilogy. In a recent interview, Ranbir said that the film’s VFX budget is spread over the three films. “The assets we have created for the film, like the fire VFX or effects for other superpowers, they will be used in three films,” Ranbir told Dainik Bhaskar. Again, there is no official source for what the VFX budget of Brahmastra is but is said to be around 100 crore. If that’s true then 50-70 crore must be subtracted from the budget of this film. That means Part One’s overall budget is somewhere around 350-600 crore, depending on who you trust.

Ayan Mukerji's Brahmastra boasts of VFX never seen before in Indian films.
Ayan Mukerji’s Brahmastra boasts of VFX never seen before in Indian films.

And there you have it. Brahmastra needs to do a nett business of 350-600 crore to be considered a hit. Only four Hindi films have ever earned more than 600 crore nett and none in the pandemic. The 350-crore figure looks quite attainable though. If the lower figure is accurate, then the film should be a hit by the time it ends its run. Anything higher will be a tough ask.

A film can flop and still be profitable for producers

As things currently stand, Brahmastra is not a hit, regardless of what most sites may want to label it. It may end up being one, given that it is still making money. But whether it does so or not depends on what its landing cost actually is, which is a closely-guarded secret. The makers would want everyone to believe it is a success. Cinema is a game of perception, after all. What holds true is that the film has managed to bring the audience to the theatres, just not as much as it would have wanted. Also read: Ayan Mukerji celebrates 360 crore of Brahmastra, pens note long note on Part 2

Many have argued that the team would not make a sequel (that has been announced) if the first part wasn’t successful. The sad truth is that a film can be a box office flop and still make money for the producers. Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 did. Despite being a box office disaster, it made the makers enough money to make part 3. That is because in the 21st century, box office earnings aren’t the only source of income for a film. They also earn through music, satellite, and streaming rights, and a tiny bit through merchandising as well. Industry sources say that Brahmastra stands to earn 150-200 crore from these four avenues. Add that to the box office collections and it means the producers will end up making a profit on the film in the end, even though it may not even be a hit.




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