Bollywood’s release calendar goes for a toss, yet again
2021 was looking like the year of Bollywood’s resurgence. Announcements for new films were being made one after the other, shoots were getting started and wrapped up as well. But the Covid pandemic refuses to slow down, and hence Maharashtra theatres have been shut till April 30. This in turn has led to filmmakers rethinking about their releases.
Rohit Shetty has postponed the already delayed Sooryavanshi, again. What happens to the rest of the biggies- Thalaivi in April, Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai and Satayameva Jayate 2 in May, and so on? Does the entire year seem set for a reshuffle?
Experts and makers believe so. Producer Anand Pandit, who has delayed the theatrical release of his Amitabh Bachchan starrer Chehre, says, “Unfortunately, we have only got 52 Fridays in a year, and there are usually 300-400 films. Entire months of April and May will go, I am sure films will start releasing only after June. It will disturb the whole calendar.”
Rajender Jyala, Chief Programming Officer, INOX Leisure, says while south releases are on track so far, Hindi films will change their dates. “Sooryavanshi will have to find a new release date now. We don’t know when the theatres will reopen. Once that clarity comes, then the re scheduling will happen in the whole lineup,” he says.
RELEASE SANS MAHARASHTRA?
Jyala adds that these are tough times indeed for theatres. “There is no income. We are hopeful that this time, we will open very soon. The government has expedited the vaccination drive. It’s highly unlikely that makers will choose to release big film in other states barring Maharashtra. Smaller films, yes, maybe. Maharashtra contributes 30-35 percent of all India box office. Even earlier when Maharashtra theatres reopened at 50 percent capacity, other cinemas in the country were open, and films were releasing. Films will release, but not those on a bigger scale. For that, Maharashtra theatres have to reopen,” he explains.
Exhibitors agree and say that no filmmaker would want to release their film without the Maharashtra revenue. Akshaye Rathi tells us, “Films releasing in April or early May will obviously reconsider their plans. Given the fact that Maharashtra is shutting down, it’s possibly the biggest market in terms of box office revenue for Hindi films. With that out of the equation, no producer would want to release in other belts. Most Hindi and Hollywood films this month are planning to change dates. The impact of Maharashtra is on the other parts of the country as well. It is extremely damaging, after close to a year of being shut.”
OTT ROUTE INSTEAD?
Will filmmakers who can’t wait anymore for theatres to reopen, opt for OTT releases instead? The mounting costs for delaying a release might compel some. But Pandit, whose film The Big Bull will premiere on a streaming platform, reasons, “There is no general thumb rule. Small films may go for it. I don’t think any OTT player will be able to match the numbers for big films like Sooryavanshi . It’s very unlikely they will go to OTTs. There was no economic reason behind me releasing TBT on OTT. We are a zero debt company, so we don’t have that pressure mounting on us. We thought it would be a good bet for OTT, as there was demand for good content there. Chehre would be a beautiful experience for cinema goers, that is why we are holding on to it for a theatrical.”
Trade expert Atul Mohan also says the situation is uncertain as to when will theatres in Maharashtra be functional again. “It’s not assured that cinemas will reopen on May 1. Whether it will get extended or not, there is no clarity. Hindi films won’t release elsewhere therefore, as they can’t afford to lose such a big market,” he says.
Interact with the author on Twitter/ @RishabhSuri02
Follow @htshowbiz on Twitter