It has truly been a happy Diwali for the exhibition industry. Released on November 5, 2021, Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi has broken Box Office collection records post-pandemic, raking in almost Rs 77 crore in the first three days. With this comeback, the exhibition industry is looking at higher footfalls and expecting the business to come back in full form. To give perspective, the Hindi exhibition industry has suffered major losses due to theatres being shut especially in Maharashtra. “Across Indian languages, there is a strong content line-up as well as there is a lot of pent-up demand among the audiences. Taking regional movies as a comparison, Punjabi movie Chal Mera Putt or Tamil movie Doctor or Telugu movie Love Story, the audiences have come back to theatres to watch these movies in numbers that are comparable to pre-pandemic numbers. It’s just a matter of time before Hindi movies start performing at pre-pandemic levels and with big-budget movies set to release, it will be sooner rather than later,” Gautam Jain, partner, Ormax Media, told BrandWagon Online.
Furthermore, drawing from the past couple of months’ experience, the exhibition industry is hopeful that footfalls for the upcoming releases will rise. For instance, the footfalls received for Fast and Furious 9 were higher than Bell Bottom’s number. Also, No Time to Die garnered more eyeballs as opposed to Fast and Furious 9. Taking these into account, the industry is hopeful this festive season will provide the much-needed breather. With this hit at the box office, the industry is hopeful that various state governments will lift the 50% occupancy limit.
In terms of content pipeline, the release of Sooryavanshi will be followed by Bunty aur Babli 2, Gangubai Kathiawadi, 83, Jersey, Laal Singh Chadah, Tadap, till March 2022. As per industry experts, ideally, there are six to nine big-budget releases around festivals scheduled in a year. However, there are about 18 big-budget movies lined-up for release in the next 12 months. With this content pipeline, many in the exhibition industry are confident that they will be able to touch 2019 revenue numbers this November and December. For Anand Vishal, chief sales and revenue office, INOX Leisure Ltd, revenue from ticket sales in November-December will be equivalent to what the company had clocked in 2019. “In FY20, we had 29-30% occupancy on an average. The consumption this year is going to be more than it was in 2019 because of the festive mood and the heavy content pipeline. Even with a 50% occupancy cap, we expect to register 65-70% audience, the total of which is not that far off our average back in 2019, bringing us either equivalent or slightly less than 2019 levels,” he explained.
However, a few industry players remain skeptical. As per Kunal Sawhney, COO, Carnival Cinemas, it will take a bit longer for the exhibition industry to come back to 2019 levels. “The industry won’t be able to reach the 2019 levels simply because of the 50% occupancy cap. However, with the same level of footfalls we will be able to touch the 2019 levels in the next 9 months,“ he stated.
Interestingly, while the exhibition industry pins all its hopes on the big-budget releases, the final box office collection remains a mystery as the movie industry waits for audience response to Sooryavanshi. “It’s a wait-and-watch situation for us. Even the estimates of Box Office collection for the November-December period depends on how Sooryavanshi performs at the Box Office. Only after we know how it is received by the audience will we be able to draw estimates for the two months,” Taran Adarsh, film critic and trade analyst, said.