‘The End’ for theatrical releases? Bollywood big banner films put on hold amid Corona’s super-spreader scare

Amitabh Bachchan starrer Chehre,  Yash Raj film’s Bunty Aur Babli 2 releases have been put on a hold until further notice while Rana Daggubati’s  ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ release has been delayed

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Covid surge puts film releases on hold, theatre owners, producers stare at mounting losses

The opening up of theatres, return of the movie buffs to cinema halls rekindled hopes for the Hindi film industry as producers rushed to book slots for the theatrical release of their movies. Roohi, Mumbai Saga managed to do fair business at Box Office considering the Covid times but as the numbers started rising again in March 2021 now feels like 2020 redux.

The line-up of big banner movies with crowd-puller star case from Sooryavanshi to Radhe: You Most wanted Bhai seemed like ushering of happy days for the industry. However Covid went on its rampage march again and curbs, night curfew in Mumbai coerced the filmmakers to postpone the release of their movies. Amitabh Bachchan starrer Chehre,  Yash Raj film’s Bunty Aur Babli 2 releases have been put on a hold until further notice while Rana Daggubati’s  ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ release has been delayed. As for Hollywood, the release date of marvel tent-pole The Back widow has been move. The rising number of cases in Punjab has forced the Punjab film Puaada release to be delayed as wee. Reports run that other big Bollywood movies will also push their release days to check further loss.

Putting movie releases on hold means huge losses for the film industry that supports actors to technician, daily-wagers. The once busy theatre halls wear a deserted look and the industry wonders how it will fork out itself from this crisis. Experts say for the industry that is already residing on a stockpile of losses, 2021 might turn out to be worse.

Film producer Anand Pandit who was hopeful of Chehre release less than a fortnight ago during its trailer launch recently announced that as planned the movie will not release on April 9th. The filmmaker is ready to wait for the right time when they can ensure their audience is safe.

The return of night curfew in Mumbai has put theatre owners in a tight spot who has to close theatres by 8 pm. With a 50 per cent occupancy clause, they worry to face losses the, audience turning in fewer numbers and no new films at all to show to. According to film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi, this is a ‘haphazard solution.” He wants the government to think about the cinema hall owners who need to pay salaries to their employees.  He further pointed out that they have made no earnings in the last year. Moreover, the government has not announced any financial relief, so the best they can do is let them operate.

Nitin Dattar, owner of a theatre in Karad, Maharashtra and president of the Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India also expressed the same feeling to Indian Express. About the new rule of showing negative PCR report before entering a mall in Mumbai and hall losing the license for not maintaining social distance between audience, he said the rules are very harsh for theatre owners. He further said that the exhibitors are doing their best and the audience needs to act responsibly. The association head has reached out to Mumbai Police to help them with constables who can manage crowd during weekends.

Aurora Theatres on the other hand has planned not to open up any time soon. Meanwhile, they are trying to employ their staff in nearby hospital and malls, said Nambi Rajan the owner of the theatre. Once everything starts the employees will be brought back he affirmed.

The cinema owners have already expressed their concerns about their business suffering heavy losses due to the pandemic curbs but without any results, For film producers, it is worse, as films are not earning well even on being released as people are more comfortable watching content from the comfort of their homes.

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