Every Friday we'd see a bunch of Indian and international movies releasing at the theatres. For the first time in a long time in the history of cinema, that has completely stopped. The release of Angrezi Medium coincided with the day many states shut cinema halls to prevent the spread of coronavirus. And they haven't opened since then. The lockdown has gotten even more severe as the struggle goes on to flatten the curve.
Movie business has come to a complete standstill. People who regularly visited cinema halls for the big screen experience have been forced to turn to streaming platforms and TV channels for their movie time. Not so long ago, filmmakers were debating whether streaming services will eat up the business of theatres – thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it already has.
A bunch of movies were slated to release in April and May 2020, and there is no saying when they will see the light of day. Kabir Khan’s film '83 and Rohit Shetty's Sooryavanshi were the two big releases that were to set the tone for the new financial year in the movie business. Unfortunately, both films had to endure a postponement due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ranveer Singh starrer '83, based on India's 1983 Cricket World Cup win, was set to release on April 10. Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi, the latest offering from Shetty's cop universe, was slated to release on March 24.
Another Akshay Kumar film, Laxmmi Bomb, was supposed to release in May. So was Salman Khan's Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, Varun Dhawan's Coolie No. 1 remake and Vidya Balan's Shakuntala Devi. Janhvi Kapoor-Rajkummar Rao's Roohi Afzana, John Abraham's Mumbai Saga and Bunty Aur Babli 2 were all scheduled for a June 2020 release.
Hollywood films like Wonder Woman 1984, Marvel's Black Widow, James Bond thriller No Time to Die, Disney's Mulan, Top Gun: Maverick, Fast 9 and A Quiet Place Part 2 have also been postponed.
The release calendar that was planned for 2020 has gone for a toss. Usually big budget movies are released with a few weeks' gap between each other and smaller films are released in between. But now there is no saying what will be the format once movies start releasing again.
"We cannot assume that the big films that were planned for release in April and May will be the first ones to hit theatres when cinemas open. Even if situation gets better in India, big budget movies depend on overseas market for 40% of their revenue. They will not take the risk unless cinemas in the UK, US and Australia open, too. Big releases will probably be pushed back to October-November," says trade analyst Atul Mohan.
Small budget films, made in the range of Rs 3-5 crore, might open in theatres sooner, since they do not have to depend on a larger audience base. Even then, there will be no mad rush to the movie halls anytime soon.
Exhibitors in India are discussing how to go about opening cinema halls again. "We assume things might start getting better from June-July. Even if people start stepping out of their houses, it will take a long time before movie-viewing goes back to normal. Cinemas will try to attract people back. But there will be a fear factor about 100-150 strangers gathering in an air-conditioned enclosed space. Cinemas will have to work out safety measures – wearing masks, temperature checks, gaps between seats and rows, etc," says Atul.
Bookmyshow, the biggest online ticket seller, agrees that safety measures have to be worked out before cinemas can think of welcoming audiences back. "What we are looking at is a 'new normal', keeping in mind social distancing and sanitisation, among other factors. The health and safety of all - from cine-goers to cinema partners, production houses and execution agencies - will be of paramount importance," says Ashish Saksena, COO – Cinemas, BookMyShow.
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