Chalti hai kya 9 se 12?
When Salman Khan sang that line to Karisma Kapoor in Judwa, the box office rocked, fans danced and everyone went home happy. But the current drought of films in cinemas means that a couple wanting to catch a night show in Delhi may have to go hunting for it.
For the first time in the history of Bollywood, two months have passed without any big release. Worse, the summer vacations — traditionally, the peak business time for cinemas — may be over before multiplexes and filmmakers manage to reach an agreement over profit sharing.
Shows are running at 10 per cent of the average business, a fact that has forced standalone theatres to scrap night shows altogether during weekdays. Even at multiplexes, films are being shown on one screen, and the rest are closed.
“Our last show is at 3.45 pm,” says Satish Garg, owner of G3s cinema in Rohini. “Forget running three screens, we can’t run more than two shows a day,” he says. According to Garg, ever since the strike began, the occupancy rate has been 15-25 per cent, far less than the number needed to break even, let alone make a profit from the show.
The manager of a well-known cinema in central Delhi says, “The shows are in the daily listings of newspapers, but where are the viewers? Every evening, we wait for an hour and then shut down the box office and go back home. We’ve incurred losses for two months — spending money on staff, electricity and maintenance — at times for just a couple sitting in the theatre.”
Viewers, too, are losing patience. “What do we do?” asks Srestha Mishra, who runs a women’s club called Priyadarshini. “We have a membership of 400. Every fortnight we used to go out for movies, but now we have nowhere to go.”
For banker Pooja Jain, “weekends have never been so boring”. Initially, she found it fun to watch a rerun or an old film, “but we’ve seen most of them already and it’s a waste of money”. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Not anytime soon.