The biggest challenge for film industry is rescheduling the films that have been postponed
Filmmakers are left with no option other than to put release plans on hold as cinemas across the country either shutting down or operate with 50% occupancy, with night curfews and weekend curfews in place.
Jersey, starring Shahid Kapoor, was the first big ticket project to postpone release after cinemas shut down in Delhi, followed by RRR, which was slated for a January 7 release. Now, Valimai and Radhe Shyam makers have announced that they’ll be postponing the film’s release as well, while reports state that Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chhillar-starrer Prithviraj, which was meant to hit theatres on January 21, will be held back as well. So, what will be the fate of these films going ahead?
Girish Johar, producer and film business expert, says, “January was a month of solo releases, with one major mega star film releasing every week. Producers had ensured that their release got enough screens. However, now we are looking at an empty calendar. As an industry, we are hoping that this hiatus doesn’t last as long as the last one. Every other hour there is an update from another state and rules are changing quickly, hence there is a lot of confusion around.”
Regional film releases feel the heat, too While Bollywood releases – and those targeting pan-India audiences – have backed out of theatrical runs, the release of several regional films may depend on the scenario of their primary market. Akshaye Rathi, director, Aashirwad Theatres and an industry expert, cites the example of Valimai, starring Tamil superstar Ajith. “The film was expected to release on Jan 14, and now with the restrictions imposed in Tamil Nadu, it will be slightly unfeasible for the maker to release the film on that date. Then there is Bangaraju starring Nagarjuna and Naga Chaitanya, which might go ahead as planned because cinemas aren’t yet shut in its primary markets – Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.”
Rajender Singh Jyala, Chief Programming Officer, INOX Leisure, adds, “We have no releases this week. Films that were already in cinemas will continue running. Despite cinemas in some states still showing films, due to the restrictions, footfalls will be affected.”
Film business analysts say that filmmakers are likely to wait till the virus subsides to release their films in theatres than go the OTT route. Akshaye Rathi says, “Be it Sooryavanshi or Spider-Man: No Way Home, the business that these films have done recently is proof that the audience will come to theatres to watch films. Some producers with financial constraints may take the OTT route. However, most filmmakers are ready to wait and release films in cinemas. All of us are hoping that states will take a pragmatic approach – keeping both, the safety of people and the economics of businesses in mind – as the last one-and-a-half years have been extremely hard for the cinema industry.”
Raj Bansal, film distributor, points out that several filmmakers have been very reluctant to push back releases, and were ultimately forced to under the circumstances. He adds, “The biggest challenge for our industry is rescheduling the films that have been postponed. Now what happens is that till the first week of Diwali 2022 – the release date of the films announced in advance will remain the same. So, where will the makers shift these January-February releases to? There will be a clash of dates. Films which were earlier announced to be released in April, will either have to push back their release dates or go head-to-head with these films at the box-office.”
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