Theatres to open in Maharashtra, but it could be a lustreless Diwali with no big releases

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on November 04, 2020

With just 10 days to go to Diwali, the Maharashtra government, on Wednesday, issued an order allowing cinema theatres in the State to open from November 5 at 50 per cent capacity. But is the order too late in the day for the film industry?

Till Wednesday there was no confirmation on new Bollywood movies during Diwali, traditionally considered an auspicious occasion to release films.Instead, theatres were dismally reconciled to continue with re-runs and some new regional movie releases during the festival, traditionally a time when they got the biggest crowds.

Much-awaited movies

Although theatres opened in many States in mid-October, the reason makers of much-awaited movies such as 83 and Suryanvanshi were holding their firepower was because Maharashtra had not opened. The State contributes 20-30 per cent to Hindi film collections, with Mumbai alone contributing more than 10 per cent.

But Wednesday’s order won’t change things, feels Shailesh Kapoor, Founder and CEO, Ormax Media, a media consulting firm. “This doesn’t impact Diwali releases, as it’s too late now for anyone to announce, promote and release within a week and a half,” opined Kapoor.

Taran Adarsh, trade analyst, said while there is no clarity on new Bollywood releases at the moment, it can emerge in a few days’ time.

Discussions about releasing movies such as Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari and Sandeep aur Pinky Faraar during Diwali are on, PV Sunil, MD, Carnival Cinemas, told BusinessLine. “So far, there are no confirmed movies for Diwali release, but I am hoping that these two movies get released,” he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson at PVR Cinemas said that Sir, a Hindi movie by Rohena Gera, will be releasing this Diwali in the theatres. Trade analyst Komal Nahta also tweeted on Wednesday that PVR Pictures and Platoon One Films will be releasing Sir on November 13. But Sir is technically not new – it was released theatrically in France after an initial release at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.

Theatre’s loss could be OTT (Over the Top) platforms’ gain. Almost all platforms are gearing up for new movie releases during the Diwali season. Akshay Kumar starrer Laxmii (initially titled Laxmmi Bomb) will be released in November on Disney+Hotstar. Coolie No.1 on Amazon Prime Video is another big release expected soon. Movies such as Ludo, Chhalaang and Durgavati are also slated for a release on OTT platforms in November and December.

Bollywood’s absence from theatres could spell opportunity for regional films. As cinemas in more than 15 States and UTs reopened, four new Bengali films opened on the big screen. Theatre owners said that the new Bengali releases, which have even had theatres ‘houseful’ highlight the importance of new movies for bringing back crowds. “India is not a market where reruns work theatrically, and hence, till new content comes out in other languages, especially Hindi, Hollywood, Tamil and Telugu, any analysis of box office will be premature,” said Kapoor.

Huge losses

The multiplex industry has suffered huge losses amid the pandemic-induced lockdown. PVR Cinemas, on Tuesday, reported a consolidated net loss of ₹184.06 crore in the September quarter, compared to the consolidated net profit of ₹47.67 crore it had posted in the year-ago period.

Published on November 04, 2020

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