Going viral: Theatres postpone releases amid fresh surge in Covid-19 cases

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March 30, 2021 4:15 AM

Already, Yash Raj Films’ Bunty Aur Babli 2 and Punjabi film Puaada, initially slated for April screening, have postponed their releases for now.

“There is a dip in footfalls, the momentum ahead will depend on further curbs and checks issued by authorities if any,” Sawhney says.“There is a dip in footfalls, the momentum ahead will depend on further curbs and checks issued by authorities if any,” Sawhney says.

Indian exhibitors are worried about the resurgence in Covid infections; the theatrical business that was almost crippled by the pandemic had been gradually picking up even amid operational restrictions, they say.

Already, Yash Raj Films’ Bunty Aur Babli 2 and Punjabi film Puaada, initially slated for April screening, have postponed their releases for now.

Haathi Mere Saathi that had planned a March 26 theatrical launch has decided to stall the release of the movie in the Hindi markets. The regional versions of the film—Aranya in Telugu and Kaadan in Tamil though are available at the cinemas. Industry observers say that more film-makers may take a call to halt releases in the coming days.

“Looking at the current scenario, it seems that we have some reshuffle on the cards,” says Atul Mohan, editor at Complete Cinema. People are not feeling safe to come out of their houses.

Norms in certain states mandating visitors to carry Covid negative tests before entering malls have started impacting business, says Kunal Sawhney, senior vice-president, operations and F&B at Carnival Cinemas. Sawhney points out that a mass movie like Mumbai Saga featuring John Abraham that released on March 19 fetched lower collections in the Metros compared to tier two and three cities.

“This was not the case with earlier movies. Mumbai Saga should have done better,” says Sawhney. He, however, said that people are now more informed about Covid-appropriate behaviour and many consumers are still stepping out to catch a movie at the theatres. For instance, international movie Godzilla vs Kong that released on March 24 had a decent opening even on a weekday. The company that is operating select theatres and limited screens in Mumbai and Pune says it saw almost 300-400 movie goers at each of its theatres in Pune on an average every day despite imposition of restrictions in the state.

In Mumbai, the number stood at 500-600 people on weekdays and over 1,000 on weekends. In fact, Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor starrer Roohi that was launched on March 11 earned a decent over Rs 20 crore as on March 24. However, Mumbai Saga garnered under Rs 13 crore between March 19-24, according to film biz analyst Taran Adarsh. The movie’s collections dipped to `90 lakh on March 24 compared to Rs 1.49 crore and Rs 1.47 crore in the previous two weekdays.

“There is a dip in footfalls, the momentum ahead will depend on further curbs and checks issued by authorities if any,” Sawhney says.

Gautam Dutta, CEO at PVR, says cinemas need to operate at 50% capacity in some states and admissions are affected due to restrictions in operational hours and days in some states/cities imposed by local administrations. “Though we are encouraged by the announcement of release dates made by producers/distributors on their titles, we also respect the decision of those who are adopting a wait and watch policy,” Dutta says.

Parineeti Chopra-starrer biopic Saina hit the theatres as planned on March 26. Analysts say that the business recovery of cinemas hinges on the screening of big-ticket movies. Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi is slated for a theatrical launch on April 30 as of now. Complete Cinema’s Mohan says Sooryavanshi still has time to be “considered for postponement”.

After record revenues of over Rs 4,000 crore in 2019, box office collections for 2020 are estimated to have barely touched `500 crore.

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