Variety

Covid plays villain: Silver screens go dark, again

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on April 05, 2021

States have imposed restrictions such as weekend lockdowns, night curfews or re-imposition of 50% occupancy norms   -  The Hindu

A spate of movie releases will get hit as curbs return in Maharashtra, other States

Just when things seem to be going well for the hero/heroine, catastrophe strikes. This typical last-scene-before-interval is happening live for the cinema industry with the Covid resurgence blanking out the big screen again in Maharashtra in a key summer month.

Maharashtra’s move to shut cinemas till April 30 will impact the release of several much-awaited movies. There are concerns about Sooryavanshi and Thalaivi getting delayed. Already, Bunty Aur Babli 2 and Chehre have been postponed.

Peak season

And, other States such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh Rajasthan, Haryana and Karnataka have imposed a variety of restrictions such as weekend lockdowns, night curfews or brough back 50 per cent occupancy norms.

The industry is worried as summer is traditionally a lucrative season. Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar explains, “Traditionally, April-May has been one of the key revenue generating periods for the industry.”

Since Maharashtra is a major film territory in terms of box office revenue contribution, for Hindi as well as Hollywood movies, it is unlikely that any big movies will get released this month, he added.

Gautam Jain, Partner, Ormax Media, said, “For a film like Sooryavanshi, the contribution from Maharashtra could go to as high as 35-40 per cent.”

Johar pointed out that pandemic-induced challenges over the past one year have already forced 1,000-1,200 screens in the country to close and they are unlikely to reopen.

Alok Tandon, CEO, Inox Leisure, said, “The revival process of the cinema industry had begun, and the recent curbs are much like a speed-breaker.” However, Tandon was optimistic of overcoming this. “Performances of movies like Roohi and Godzilla Vs Kong showed us that audiences are willing to turn up in big numbers for new content, even after an extended lockdown that we saw last year.”

Waivers sought

But industry observers are not so sanguine. Karan Taurani, Vice-President, Elara Capital, said, “The industry has already missed opportunities of Republic Day, Holi, Good Friday weekend; if Eid too doesn’t see the release of a big film, it will have a huge negative impact in the first quarter of FY22.”

According to Kunal Sawhney, Senior Vice-President, Operations and F&B, Carnival Cinemas, the beleaguered industry is now urging State governments like Maharashtra’s to support the cinema industry through waivers on property tax, electricity charges and licence renewal fee.

Published on April 05, 2021

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