Can Christopher Nolan’s Tenet open the shutters of Indian theatres?

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on June 26, 2020

Earlier this month, Warner Bros announced that Christopher Nolan’s big budget sci-fi espionage movie ‘Tenet’ will have a worldwide theatrical release on July 31. The announcement gave a ray of hope to the global entertainment industry, which is in tatters due to theatre shutdowns and shooting cancellations ever since the pandemic broke out.

“Globally the cinema industry is probably looking at this one film as a saviour of the situation because Christopher Nolan not only held on to release the movie in July but chose to wait for a theatrical release,” Shibasish Sarkar, CEO of Reliance Entertainment said.

But with the number of Covid-19 cases peaking in the US, the producers on Thursday, for the second time, decided to postpone the release date to August 12. The studios had earlier pushed the worldwide release date from July 12.

While theatres in the developed market are gearing up for the movie release, the prospect of the Dark Knight movie director’s latest film hitting the Indian screens appears to be under dark clouds.

“A large portion of cinemas in the major markets such as North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand are already opening up,” Sarkar said, adding, “I am not sure if the Indian market can open up this month since large cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai are most affected but I do hope that in the next 30 days if the situation improves, if not all at least some markets open up.”

Last Friday, the world’s largest movie theatre chain AMC Theatres announced that it will resume operations from July 15 and will roll out Disney's Mulan and Warner Bros’ Tenet movies across their screens. A vast majority of France’s 2,000 plus cinemas also opened from Monday.

No clarity

“We appreciate Warner and Christopher Nolan’s decision to release the film. That said, we still don’t have clarity on the re-opening of cinemas in India. We are hopeful that some clarity will come by the end of June and if we do get the permission to reopen, we will be delighted to play Tenet at all our cinemas,” Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR Pictures, said.

PVR cinemas recently released a video ‘PVR Cares’ to showcase that the theatre is ready to welcome back their patrons with all health and safety precautions in place without compromising on the movie watching experience.

“There is already a lot of hype and anticipation around Tenet, and is potentially going to pull viewers to theatres across the country. The movie is releasing all over the world and it will release in India as well if the cinemas are open on that day or would release at a later date when cinemas open,” Rajender Singh Jyala, Chief Programming Officer of INOX Leisure Limited said.

Movie critic and trade analyst Taran Adarsh said unless the Central and State governments give a clear green signal for theatres to re-open there will not be any activity. “I don’t think it’s not going to happen in July at least.”

Nitin Datar, President of the Cinema Owners & Exhibitors Association of India (COEAI), said that the association has written to both Central and State governments to allow cinemas to open at least in the green zones. However, there is no indication from the government on this matter.

“Around 1,500 films in various languages are waiting to be released. If the government doesn't allow the cinemas to open then chances are there that a large number of cinemas will not open at all,” Datar added.

According to the latest FICCI-EY report on the media and entertainment sector, the gross box office collection (GBOC) of Hollywood films (including dubbed versions) in India grew by 33 per cent in 2019 to reach ₹16 billion, which is 13 per cent of total domestic theatrical revenues.

“Although India is not a major market for Hollywood films in percentage terms, for tentpole films like the Avengers series, Fast & Furious and Spiderman — which has a large cinematic experience, India has grown as a significant market over the last few years,” Reliance Entertainment’s Sarkar said.

For instance, Avengers-End Game, released in April 2019, grossed ₹400 core in collection to emerge as the highest grossing Hollywood movie at the Indian box office.

“The Indian market is increasingly gaining more importance as more multiplexes get built in more urban markets. As the country is becoming more urban, it is becoming more relevant for Hollywood,” PVR Pictures’ Gianchandani said.

In India, Tenet will also be released in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions.

“Hollywood films are gradually penetrating India. The films are not just released in English but also in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu, so obviously they (Hollywood) are looking into this market and it’s a growing market for sure,” film critic Adarsh said.

Published on June 26, 2020

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