Many times people have asked me why is it that bad movies make 100s of crores and good movies will maybe earn 10-20 crores? Well, the simple answer is marketing. But there's more to it than that...
With most top earning actors only doing one or two films a year fans look forward to their next big budget release. Fans are what drive ticket sales and they come in hordes to see their favourite star on the big screen - "First day, first show."
Knowing this, producers and distributors go to great lengths to release a big budget film on at least 2500 to 3000 screens. They know the film is no good and will only be able to earn money in the first week or two, so, they release it on as many screens as possible to earn money back before people realize the film is no good and stop coming. Most filmmakers even pay well known critics to get their films 4 or 4.5 stars out of 5 in reviews (filmmakers have admitted to that).
The problem is... the way film production works today is not based on the strength of the script. Films today are produced based on the talent attached to it, the bigger the stars the more money the producer is able to get, script be damned. The more they get the more they pocket. Since the distributor is not given any paperwork by the producer, he is unable to check how much the film actually cost to make - he is at the mercy of the producer and gives the producer whatever exuberant amount he asks for without ever seeing one frame of the film - only based on star cast and other talent attached to the film like director, producer and music director.
For example, there's no way that the film Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! cost 85-100 crores to make when Krrish 3 cost Rs. 115 crores. Krrish 3 has a lot of visual effects and action sequences which will make one believe that the cost could be 115 crores, but, unless Akshay Kumar charged Rs. 60 crores as his salary there's no reason for OUATIMD to cost so much especially since the first film (Once Upon a Time in Mumbai) had a budget of 28 crores and it had a bigger star cast. Of course, OUATIMD wasn't able to recover its cost.
Part of the problem was that OUATIMD didn't get as wide a release as the producer and distributor had wanted. Most of the Cinema Halls were still playing Chennai Express and were unable to accommodate screens for OUATIMD since Chennai Express was such a success. Instead of 2500 screen, OUATIMD was released on 1600 screens that too on smaller screens (less seating) and with some screens shared with Chennai Express. OUATIMD only managed to earn 60.11 crore before the audience gave up on it. With these mega budgets it has become extremely difficult for films to earn their money back, especially with producers only being interested in filling their own pockets.
Gone are the days when Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge were made for Rs. 4 Crores. HAHK had a very limited release, initially it was released with only 26 prints, as word of mouth grew in it's favour so did the number of screens. HAHK eventually went on the earn over 100 crores - that's 92 crores in profit and a return on investment of 2300% (that's right ...two thousand three hundred percent... I thought I would type it out in case you thought you mis-read it). HAHK is considered one of the greatest blockbusters ever in Hindi cinema. Name one movie today that can give such ROI - today distributors are lucky if films make their money back, a ROI of 1% is considered a bonus. Nowadays we have films which are not even 1% as good and cost at least 20 time more.
Here's an idea... Next time you want to see your favourite star wait for a week or two before you go see a new release you will soon see how fast the film flops. If its genuinely good then after the first day or two word of mouth will increase it's audience, especially with so much social media around.