Coronavirus: 15-20% impact on revenues of big ticket Hindi films

The only other time the industry had faced such a crisis in recent past was during demonetisation. File   | Photo Credit: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Baaghi 3, at ₹17.5 crore net, may have logged in the highest opening day collections for a Hindi film in 2020 so far, but it is also the first to face the adverse effect of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the box office forecast of trade magazine Super Cinema, the opening day range for director Ahmed Khan’s Tiger Shroff starrer had been projected at a much higher range — between ₹26 and ₹28 crore — than what has been delivered. “Weekend was better but the trends have been lower than expected, the collections have been affected nationwide,” says Amul Mohan, editor of the magazine.

Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of media consulting firm Ormax Media, concurs. Ormax’s opening day projections for the film had also been substantially higher at ₹21 crore. Its projections for the forthcoming Sooryavanshi stand at a whopping ₹30.8 crore. However, in a virus-less market, the same figure for the Rohit Shetty biggie starring Akshay Kumar, would have been even higher at about ₹36 crore, says Mr. Kapoor.

He predicts a 15-20% impact on the big ticket Hindi films in the coming months and an even bigger one on the medium and small films which, as opposed to the tentpole films, are anyhow regarded as “easier to skip for a later day”. According to him, Homi Adjania’s Irrfan Khan starrer, Angrezi Medium, that releases coming Friday, may face a 25-30% impact.

The impact has been felt far less in South film industries with fewer cases detected so far. An Ormax study of the impact of COVID-19 on theatre-going behaviour in India conducted across 80 cities in the Hindi-Tamil-Telugu industries belt on Thursday-Friday-Saturday last week showed that 23% regular theatre goers in India are likely to stay away from theatres till the threat is reduced. The proportion is higher in Hindi speaking markets (26%) than in South India (17%).

In view of the situation which is changing day to day, Ormax would be conducting the study every three days and coming up with the findings twice a week. The next round of figures will be out of this Thursday.

Delhi-based exhibitor Sanjay Mehta, however, thinks there are several factors — not just COVID-19 — eating into the earnings of Baaghi 3 and other recent Bollywood films. “The low pre-holi period and board exams have come in the way and Baaghi is a predominantly youth-oriented franchisee,” he says. The law and order, violence and protests have affected business in Delhi; the late evening and night shows — largely patronised by Muslims — are running empty in Uttar Pradesh.

According to Mr. Mehta, things will come to a head if things go out of control in the weeks ahead and if the government decides to shut down theatres temporarily. He remembers the case of a film Main Khiladi Tu Anari distributed by him back in 1994. “It started off at 100% collection. On the 6th day, the Delhi government ordered cinema closure due to a plague scare. The film couldn’t gather the same momentum when the theatres reopened,” he remembers.

According to Mr. Kapoor, more than the individual collections, it’s the possible changes in release calendar that are more worrying and will throw things in a tizzy. Already there are rumours in the market about Reliance Entertainment delaying Sooryavanshi, slated for a March 24 release, and Kabir Khan’s 83 with Ranveer Singh doing a Kapil Dev that is supposed to come out on April 10. A Sooryavanshi spokesperson, however, clarified that the decision is still awaited and will be taken only on Wednesday.

“A massive 27-film franchisee like Bond has a bigger market and a lot more at stake but the seven-month postponement because of the outbreak could make even the bigger Bollywood producers do a rethink,” says Mr. Mohan.

“It will mean that there will be no film of sizeable scale and star cast in the next 3-4 weeks. March and April will become dead months if there is no content,” says Mr. Kapoor. The first quarter has anyhow been bad with only Tanhaji and Baaghi 3 faring well.

The only other time the industry had faced such a crisis in recent past was during demonetisation. However, things had stabilised by the time of the big XMas releases in December. Uncertainty is a big factor now when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak, with the situation volatile and changing by the day. A lot, however, will still depend on how Baaghi 3 fares in the first week.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 3:55:48 AM |

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