While theatres around the world are slowly inching towards reopening, even in India, the announcement of releases of Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi on Diwali and Ranveer Sngh’s ‘83 on Christmas has come as a sigh of relief. However, it remains uncertain when the theatres will open, as some say end of August and some feel that theatrical release of films is not possible before September.
According to a recent survey, 54 per cent of Indian entertainment buffs are eager to get to the theatres within 15-90 days of the lockdown lifting. While movie theatres have outlined their own plans to return to normal, what will be the release schedule like?
FILMS ARE NOT READY YET
Producer Anand Pandit says it’s not going to be a collective decision. “Each producer or Studio is deciding on the release date as per what they think works for their project. As for the exhibitors, they’d most likely decide on a first come, first serve basis,” he says.
According to trade analyst Atul Mohan, it’ll take a minimum time of one month to get a film ready for release even after the theatres open. “We don’t know when the Censor Board will start taking applications and screen films. Also, they’ll only accept films that are complete in all manner and that won’t be easy because not many films are ready yet,” he explains.
In agreement with Mohan, trad e expert Taran Adarsh says that irrespective of the scheduled calendar, no new films will release immediately when theatres reopen.
“The films that were released before the situation will be released first because barring one or two films, no other project is ready for release. First they have to be completed, then comes the post production, then promotions,” he says, citing the examples of Baaghi 3 and Angrezi Medium.
ADAPTING IS THE KEY
In such a scenario, what’s important is to weigh in the options first, and be prepared to accommodate last minute changes.
Ajit Andhare, Chief Operating Officer at Viacom18 Studios, says, “The correct approach is to avoid a pan release and do it in pockets, and see how the reception is. It’ll save a bigger blow. We should be also prepared to release a film and take a step back given the situation,” says Andhare, on behalf of the production house backing who Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chadda, and adds that a 2020 release for the film is farfetched.
Preetham Daniel of Harkness Screens opines that releasing the film that are ready in the overseas market first is also a great option.
“Almost 25-30 per cent of the overall revenue comes from international distribution. From just a business point of view, it’s about survival. If there’s an opportunity to release a film outside of India first, then why not?” he suggests.
BIG FILMS FIRST BUT NO CLASHES ANYMORE
Clearly, big films with bigger stars such as Sooryavanshi or ’83 will propel the business and make people get out of their houses to theatres.
“It’s more about releasing the right film. People will not step out to watch a second or third level films, only a Salman Khan or an Akshay Kymar can get them to cinemas,” feels Daniel.
Exhibitor Akshaye Rathi says that there understanding among producers have to be stronger than ever and more empathetic.
“They’ve to decide that let’s not bite each other off and take a fair call. You’ll no longer see big clashes. Everyone now realises it’s important to make maximum money with each film. We are anyway getting into this business back with a lot of limitations,” says Rathi.
SMALL FILMS GET A WINDOW
In the meantime, while big films aren’t ready or may be skirmish to come out first, smaller ones should make the most of this opportunity.
“Initially, smaller films will have a better run because bigger ones are only likely to release once a sizeable number of audience members are allowed to theatres. After a few months, it might get tougher once bigger films start releasing,” Pandit adds.
Mohan feels that for long, multiplexes had sidelined non-starcast films, but now they’ll be rolling out the red carpet for them.
“A couple of Sharman Joshi’s films are ready like Babloo Bachelor. In normal circumstances, the multiplexes wouldn’t have paid any heed but now things are different,” he says.
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