With vaccination underway and cinema halls opening to full capacity, Bollywood filmmakers are back where they belong — theatres. Roohi, a horror comedy starring Janhvi Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao, was released on March 11 in theatres. At least four more Bollywood releases are expected in March, including Mumbai Saga, Saina and Haathi Mere Saathi.
Film trade analyst Taran Adharsh says Roohi earned `3.06 crore on the first day of its release. “The earnings show that people are keen on returning to the movie experience in theatres,” he says. National multiplex chains alone contributed to `1.89 crore of the box office collections on day one. About `1.17 crore came from ticket sales in tier-2 cities.
Master, starring Tamil actor Vijay, which released on January 13, was among the first movies to be screened in theatres in 2021. The movie reportedly collected `1 crore at the box office on the first day of its release. “Master not only broke the shackles, but also encouraged other studios to plan their releases,” says Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer, INOX Leisure.
Industry watchers say it is regional language movies that have kept theatre-owners afloat for the past few months. Bengali movies released during Durga Puja and film releases in south India around Pongal supplied content to a starved audience.
Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR, says the south Indian market led the revival of cinemas. “The release of big movies like Sooryavanshi, Bunty Aur Babli 2, Thalaivi, and Chehre in April and films like Roohi in March will drive Bollywood towards revival. Mumbai — the hub for Bollywood movies — is still at 50% occupancy,” he says.
Adarsh points out that not all single screens have reopened yet. Some multiplexes, too, are yet to be 100% operational. Carnival Cinemas has reopened about 60% of its cinema halls and hopes to be completely operational around mid-March.
Filmgoers are going to be spoilt for choice in 2021 as the release of several movies may clash on Fridays. This could potentially reduce the box office collection of a single movie as audiences would be forced to choose between movies, say analysts.
“We are requesting producers to stagger releases so that films do not eat into each other’s business,” says Kunal Sawhney, senior vice-president, Carnival Cinemas.
The other hurdle with a flurry of releases while occupancy rates are still low, is a short theatrical window, that is, a short duration between a movie’s theatrical release and its digital release. Industry insiders say that producers of movies that have been waiting to hit the screens since last year are negotiating for shorter theatrical windows. Master, for instance, made its OTT premiere on January 29, only about two weeks after its release.
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