The stage is set for an august November-December at the movies with a bunch of big-ticket Bollywood films rushing to book a release date by the year end, soon after Maharashtra government’s decision to permit theatres to reopen from October 22.
Significant films like the Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi (Diwali weekend), Ranveer Singh’s cricket drama ’83 (December 25), Bunty Aur Babli 2 (Nov 19) and Shahid Kapoor’s Jersey (December 31) along with Hollywood’s No Time to Die (Sept 30), Spiderman – No Way Home (Dec 17) and Matrix 4 (Dec 22) are expected to draw crowds back to the theatres after April 2021.
The two months are also choc-a-bloc with John Abraham’s Satyamev Jayate 2 (26 Nov), Tadap (Dec 3) and Aayushmann Khurana-starrer Chandigarh Kare Aaashiqi (Dec 10).
BIG BUCKS AT STAKE
Calling it a big respite for pandemic-ravaged cinemas, Elara Capital’s SVP and research analyst Karan Taurani estimated that at least Rs 500 crore is at stake for Bollywood at least in November and December with Maharashtra reopening theatres. “All these films have medium to large budgets in the range of Rs 70 crore to Rs 100 crore. But the collections are not likely to hit the Rs 200-crore club soon.”
Multiplex Association of India said the Maharashtra cinema exhibition industry has lost Rs 4,800 crore in various lockdowns since March 2020, while movie theatre chain Inox estimated that the film exhibition industry has lost out on Rs 2,000 crore of business from Maharashtra alone since April 2021.
The state, home to Bollywood, accounts for an estimated 25-30% of box office collections of one of India’s biggest film industries. It contributes to 40% of the box office collections of English movies in India.
“Mumbai territory (which compromises Mumbai City, parts of Maharashtra, parts of Karanataka, Goa and Gujarat) contributes 28%-35% to a Hindi film’s box office,” said media consultancy firm Ormax Media’s partner Gautam Jain.
He said many big-ticket Hindi films had held on to their theatrical releases for Maharashtra. “Looking at the theatrical performance of regional films, one can be sure that the audience will be back in huge numbers in Maharashtra as well once Hindi films start releasing,” said Jain.
‘OTT-ONLY, A COVID RESPONSE’
No big movie wants an OTT-only because that will be loss-making for them, said Edelweiss Securities executive director Abneesh Roy.
“Box office is the only sustainable model, with its satellite rights and OTT option. Going straight to OTTs was a Covid-19 response. Now, if the third wave (of coronavirus infections) doesn’t happen – going by the data from Europe, even if cases go up, fatality is low—no big movie will go directly to OTT because it doesn't make any financial sense whatsoever.” But, he added, it will take time to go back to pre-Covid levels of footfalls.
Further, footfall-restricting theatre occupancy caps still exist in several states. It may also hamper family audiences because they will have to sit apart from each other, and vaccinations for children have not begun yet, said experts.
“There is a huge pent-up demand from audiences to watch movies on the big screen and with the big-ticket Bollywood and regional films awaiting announcement by producers and internationally released Hollywood content, we expect the movie going habits to return among patrons,” said CEO Gautam Dutta of India’a largest multiplex chain PVR.
There are at least 24 Bollywood, 18 Hollywood and 22 regional films lined up for theatrical release over the next few months.
“The emerging content line-up also augurs well for the financial health of the cinema exhibition sector, and should hasten the recovery process,” said INOX Leisure CEO Alok Tandon.
PVR’s revenue nosedived from Rs 3,452 crore in the year ending March 2020 to Rs 310 crore a year later. Rival INOX’s revenue crashed from Rs 1,915 crore to Rs 148 crore during the period.
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