Coronavirus | Delhi cinema closure rattles Bollywood

Police story: Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi stars Ranveer Singh, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn.

Police story: Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi stars Ranveer Singh, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn.  

Release of Sooryavanshi postponed to unspecified date, Sir also deferred

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to shut down cinema halls in the Capital till March 31 brought home the enormity of the COVID-19 impact on Bollywood with the release of one of the major films of this year, Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi, deferred from its March 24 release, to an unspecified date.

Rohena Gera’s Sir, supposed to release next Friday, was also postponed to an indefinite date, while Yashraj Films have said it is yet to take a decision on Dibakar Banerjee’s Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar slated for March 20 release.

The Delhi CM’s decision was the last straw for the makers, who had been dithering on whether to release Sooryavanshi or not. A statement from Rohit Shetty Picturez said the postponement is “keeping in mind the health and safety of our beloved audience”.

According to Delhi exhibitor Sanjay Mehta, on an average, the Delhi-U.P. territory accounts for 22% of the revenue of Hindi films, with Delhi alone accounting for about 10 to 12% of the collections. Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of media consulting firm Ormax Media, put the figure between 10-15%. “Delhi’s is a sizeable share, can go up to 20% for a metro-centric film,” he said.

Mr. Mehta estimated that within the Delhi-U.P. territory, Delhi, with its multiplexes, brings in more for the so-called family or gentry films like the one releasing this Friday — Homi Adjania’s Angrezi Medium. “Delhi brings 60-65% collections for gentry films within the Delhi-UP territory and for mass films it could be 50-50 or 40-60 between Delhi and U.P.,” he said.

However, he said it will be difficult for Angrezi Medium to back out now at the last minute with overseas delivery, and that across the country, already locked. “They could have had second thoughts if the CM decision had come on Monday,” Mr. Mehta said.

Mr. Kapoor said the Delhi theatre closure decision was a major setback for the Hindi film industry, with every likelihood of it having a domino effect. “Other States may follow. The decision adds to the overall sense that it is not safe to venture out to watch a film,” he said.

A continuing Ormax study on the impact of COVID-19 on theatre-going behaviour showed 26% regular theatre-goers in India are likely to stay away from theatres till the threat of the infection is reduced. The survey was conducted across 80 cities in the Hindi-Tamil-Telugu industries belt between March 9 and 11. This was an increase from the 23% in the earlier poll conducted between March 6 and 8.

The spike was sharper in south India, with 21% saying they will stay away as opposed to 17% last week. In the Hindi belt, too, the figure had risen from 26% to 28%. The next round of results, out on Monday, might see a bigger leap now after the Delhi cinema closure.

Right now, the overall state hangs between caution, fear and panic — not entirely conducive for a moviegoing experience. “Watching movies is not something essential; it is a thing for relaxation,” said Mr. Kapoor, about why people would be keeping away from theatres volitionally. He said it would take time for people to come back to theatres even after they reopen in Delhi.

He had earlier cited to The Hindu the case of the 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.”

So not just Sooryavanshi, but the fate of many other films, including 83 and Coolie No. 1, hangs in the balance. For their makers, it is a wait and watch game, even as the industry stays in suspended animation.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 9:40:22 PM |

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