When theatres across the country reopened after the first wave of the pandemic last year, it was movies from the south that kick-started the box office recovery for pan-India film exhibitors besides pulling a large number of audiences back to cinemas.

Vijay’s Master , which was released in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi across the country, saw the biggest theatrical release post-lockdown even as Bollywood held back its big bang releases despite a strong line-up of ready-to-release films.

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If Master kick-started the box office recovery, it was steady flow of films from the south – including Sulthan and Dhanush’s Karnan in Tamil, Red, Uppena, Jathi Ratnalu and Pawan Kalyan’s Vakeel Saab in Telugu and Malayalam superstar Mamooty’s The Priest – that kept cash registers at theatres ringing till the second wave of the pandemic forced screens to shutdown across the country.


(File photo) A view of an empty movie theatre in Kochi

According to FICCI-EY media report for 2021, south Indian cinema grossed more than Hindi cinema in 2020 as it managed to fit in three hit films which grossed over ₹1 billion in domestic theatrical revenues.

“2021 saw the theatrical release of major Tamil and Telugu movies which had a successful run at the box office, kickstarting the recovery of the industry and instilling confidence in producers across India,” the report said.

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However, while leading multiplexes have announced commencement of operations after the second wave of the pandemic, south Indian films may not aid them with business recovery like last time as theatres in key southern markets – Tamil Nadu & Puducherry and Kerala – continue to remain shut.

While Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments have allowed theatres to operate at 50 and 100 per cent seating capacities respectively, there aren’t too many upcoming theatrical releases. News reports also say that many theatres in neighbouring Karnataka are shut due to lack of fresh contents and low footfalls in cinemas.

Last week, the Delhi government allowed theatres to function with 50 per cent. Shortly after, leading multiplex chains such as PVR Cinemas and Inox Leisure announced re-opening of their theatres in almost 100 per cent of markets they operate barring Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.


Post-lockdown Bollywood has held back its big bang releases despite a strong line-up of ready-to-release films (File photo)

While INOX said, it is reopening from July 30 in Delhi NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and down south in States like Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, India’s largest multiplex operator PVR said, it will resume operations reopen its theatres with 100 per cent vaccinated staff in States/ Union Territories which allowed theatres to re-open.

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While the pandemic-hit film exhibitors were expecting good news from the Maharashtra government, the State government’s order on Monday with no exemption to cinemas came as a great disappointment for the theatre owners.

Film producer and trade analyst Girish Johar feels the State government’s decision to not allow theatre reopening could be due to two factors.


An empty theatre in Chennai (File photo)

“ICMR guidelines which says indoors, a/c with crowds should least be avoided... And a set of 15 demands by local cinema bodies for rebates and exemptions put forth is being worked upon. Hoping for a positive step soon,” he tweeted.

So far, only Akshay Kumar’s Bell Bottom has announced theatrical release on August 19 from the Bollywood side. With Maharashtra continue to remain shut, it will have an impact on box office collections.

Meanwhile, film exhibitors are pinning their hopes on a strong line up of Hollywood releases to kick-start theatre revival including Warner Bros Pictures’ Mortal Kombat, Fast & Furious 9, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The Suicide Squad 2, among others.