Post-release marketing helps ‘Queen’ rule box office

April 2, 2014

Vikas Bahl’s film wasn’t supposed to make so much money. “Queen,” made on a meagre budget of 170 million rupees ($2.8 million) without the trappings of a big-ticket Bollywood movie, was initially slotted as a niche film that would hardly threaten Indian box-office records.

“Queen” didn’t have a leading male star, a key ingredient in the recipe for box-office success. It also had an unusual storyline, about an Indian woman who is jilted at the altar and goes on a solo trip to Paris and Amsterdam.

Bollywood audiences have traditionally shunned women-oriented films. And “Queen,” released on the eve of International Women’s Day, had a dismal first day, earning 15 million rupees ($250,000) in domestic box-office receipts.

Yet, three-and-a-half weeks later, “Queen” has grossed nearly 600 million rupees ($10 million) in cinemas, broken a Bollywood record, and its lead actress, Kangana Ranaut, is being hailed as the next big thing.

Industry experts said credit for the film’s success goes not just to its content that combines comedy with a heart-warming message, but also to an understated post-release marketing strategy.

“We didn’t focus as much on the opening weekend as we did on the weekend after that, which was a Holi weekend. We made sure that we had a print and publicity budget for that week, that our PR was active, especially post-release, and that we managed to spread the good word-of-mouth that the film got,” said director Bahl.

“Queen” got unanimously good reviews, but unlike other well-reviewed films that don’t always cash in on word-of-mouth, the film’s post-release strategy involved amplifying the positive response to the film.

“Many times, there is the temptation to give out your message about what the film is, even in post-release publicity. But we desisted from doing that. We took a step back, and just concentrated on spreading whatever was being said about the film,” said Ajit Andhare, COO of Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, which co-produced “Queen” with Phantom Films.

Social media was used extensively in the post-release campaign, with special shows for influential Twitter users, many of whom raved about the film to their followers. Ranaut’s interviews were featured in print, and television promos aired with the same frequency as they did before the film’s release, ensuring that “Queen” remained in public memory.

“This was a film that really benefited from word-of-mouth on social media, and perhaps this is one of the early examples of how a good digital campaign can turn your film around,” said Andhare.

In its second week, “Queen” made 215 million rupees ($3.6 million), compared with 180 million rupees ($3 million) in its first week, beating a 13-year Bollywood record. Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) was the last Hindi film whose second week collections surpassed the opening week.

“Queen” also netted almost 70 million rupees ($1.17 million) in its third week, a feat no film this year, including the much-hyped “Jai Ho”, has matched. Most Hindi films are out of cinemas after their third week, but “Queen” is still running in cinemas nearly a month after its release.

There were screenings in Delhi’s Rajouri Garden suburb (where the film’s main character lives); tie-ups with travel channels; and even a Couchsurfing meet with Ranaut as part of post-release publicity, said Ranjan Singh, who heads marketing for Phantom Films. This is rare in an industry where the focus is on creating awareness before the film’s release.

“The success of the film is of course, due to great content, but also due to the fact that they used the goodwill it generated among viewers to increase theatrical revenues, something that many campaigns centred around small films can and should do,” said Shailesh Kapoor of Ormax Media, a film that tracks the Hindi film industry.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTharakan and Shilpa @shilpajay |This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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