The Narendra Modi government’s decision to demonetise Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes has resulted in serpentine queues outside banks. But the rush outside movie theatres has vanished. The box-office business has fallen by over 50% since the announcement was made, as per trade estimates.
The box-office performance of Rock On 2, which released last week, has been hit by about 30%. As per trade estimates, occupancy levels at theatres are usually around 35% on weekdays and 60-65% on weekends. But, since the move was announced, occupancies have fallen to about 10-15%. The overall business at the box office is down to nearly 8-10%.
The release dates of a couple of films, like 30 Minutes and Saansein, were pushed after the move was announced. But others such as Rock On 2, Tum Bin 2 and Force 2 stuck to their original release dates.
Watch: Force 2 trailer
“By the time the announcement was made on Wednesday (November 9), the prints were out. We couldn’t afford to push the release date due to piracy issues. If the decision had come over the weekend, we would have pushed it. Having said that, we can’t be selfish. We have to keep the bigger picture in mind. But, it is disappointing because one spends two years on making a film. There won’t be a second chance,” says Ritesh Sidhwani, the producer of Rock On 2.
Not on one’s priority list
Trade analyst Komal Nahta puts things into perspective. “It would be foolish to believe that the box office hasn’t been hurt, especially when movies are not among people’s priorities at the moment. Upcoming films will be affected too,” he says.
The producer of Force 2, which is slated to release next week, is also aware of the risk, but calls the move a “game-changing” one. “Yes, it might affect a film, but it will be a small sacrifice in the larger interest of the country. Secondly, since people are going through some amount of trouble, if they need an outlet for entertainment, our film will play in theatres for them,” he says.
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Small towns affected
Trade expert Amod Mehra feels the makers of Rock On 2 and other upcoming films should have pushed their release dates “to avoid getting affected”. However, he is quick to add that it is “their prerogative”. “At a time when people are saving cash for more important things such as travelling and food, not many people will want to spend on movies. In fact, many shows have been cancelled across the country in the past few days,” he says.
Experts contend that while audiences are still “trickling in” into theatres in small numbers in the larger cities, business has fallen rapidly, especially in small centres and single-screen cinema halls. “In smaller towns, the business has been worse because the cash crunch is more severe in those places. Also, unlike bigger cities, the penetration of plastic money is negligible or does not exist at all. They are struggling with their day-to-day routines,” says exhibitor and distributor Akshaye Rathi.