The central government has allowed 100% occupancy in theatres from 1 February, 2021. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting issued a new set of SOPs for cinema halls and theatres to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
While the decision was welcomed by film distributors and exhibitors, theatre owners say that everything now depends on producers who are backing big ticket films. The Quint spoke to film exhibitor and distributor Akshaye Rathi, who told us that allowing 100% occupancy is something that will not have much of an impact on how many people come to the theatres. Instead, what will make an impact is the grade of films that starts releasing now.
"“The 100% capacity catch hopefully will play the role of encouraging more producers, who are sitting on big ticket films to start releasing now and that is what will really kickstart the process of resurrection of the movie exhibition sector. A cinema’s business is only as good as the movies that are playing in them.”" - Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor and distributor
Since re-opening in October 2020, movie theatres have been running on 50% capacity, but there were hardly any films that could invite a full occupancy. However, the extraordinary response in the south to films like Vijay-starrer Master and Ravi Teja's Krack have raised hopes. But remember, these were big budget films headlined by superstars of Tamil and Telugu cinema.
Speaking to The Quint, Saurabh Varma, Chief Marketing Officer - INOX Leisure Ltd expressed similar views.
"“With safety and hygiene protocols becoming the new way of life, seating restrictions gradually getting relaxed and apprehensions settling down, all we need is a major content-driven Bollywood blockbuster to get more people back to the theatres. We have seen this happening with movies like Tenet, Master, Krack, Red, Solo and Wonder Woman 1984.”" - Saurabh Varma, Chief Marketing Officer - INOX Leisure Ltd
Ever since theatres resumed operations in the mid of October they have witnessed a steady and gradual increase in the average footfalls. In fact, there reportedly have been some houseful shows for Tenet, Wonder Woman, Master and Krack.
So, now it's time for Bollywood producers to make a move. We spoke to two leading production houses, who said they are more confident now that there will be more people coming into theatres and they have already started announcing release dates for some of the biggest films on their slate for 2021.
The Reliance Entertainment group has two of the biggest films in their kitty - Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi and Ranveer Singh's 83. Speaking to The Quint, CEO Shibashish Sarkar said:
"“Yes, we are slated to release one of the two films in the last week of March or first week of April. We hope to reach a final decision in a week or ten days, once we evaluate and close all cost and commercials with our partners. The second one will probably come in June.”" - Shibashish Sarkar, CEO, Reliance Entertainment
T-Series is one of the production houses which announced the release of their big ticket film even before the government gave a 100% occupancy nod. Their film Satyamev Jayate 2, starring John Abraham, will be releasing on Eid. Speaking to us, the Managing Director of T-series, Bhushan Kumar said, "It is a great decision made by our government for our distributors and exhibitors. With necessary precautions that are followed by our theatre owners already and now with 100% occupancy, we as producers hope more and more cinema viewers will go to enjoy movies in the theatres and that will encourage us to release movies in theatres."
"“We at T-Series have already started releasing our films in theatres and already announced an Eid release for John Abraham-starrer Satyamev Jayate 2. We are now definitely continuing to aim for theatre releases for our future films.”" - Bhushan Kumar, Managing Director, T-Series
The new SOP issued by the Centre makes sure that there is a significant gap between two shows so that people who are going out from the previous show and the people who are coming in for the next show will never be in the common area at the same time. That in a way controls the flow of people inside the property so that there is no crowding.
Talking about the issue of splitting the revenue between the producers and exhibitors, both the parties confirmed that conversations are underway and as both entities have borne financial losses in the past few months, they will find a mutually acceptable ground where the cushion of the losses over the months is absorbed equally. Currently, box-office revenue is split 50:50 between producers and exhibitors in the first week. The producer’s share drops to 40 percent in the second week, and 30 percent in the third week.
Looks like 2021 will be a treat for the movie lovers across the country. We will see mainstream films like Sooryavanshi, 83, Bell Bottom, Jersey, Bhuj, Radhe, Sam, Maidaan and Laal Singh Chaddha in cinema halls soon. There are also sequels to popular franchises such as Hera Pheri 3, Golmaal 5, Satyamev Jayate 2, No Entry 2 and others that are expected on the big screen. Hollywood collections are expected to peak with releases like Mortal Kombat, No Time To Die, Black Widow and Top Gun: Maverick during the year. Other Indian language films like KGF Chapter 2, Vakeel Saab and RRR are already creating enough buzz to bring movie lovers into theatres.
As of now, being the heart of the Indian film industry, multiplex and single-screen cinema hall owners in Maharashtra still await a green signal from the state government to go ahead with the 100% occupancy rule in theatres.
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