The first quarter of Bollywood hasn’t ended on a happy note. Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior is the only film that made business. Now with coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, films are not being screened in theatres, shootings have been cancelled and box-office releases have been put on hold.
Along with Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi, Kabir Khan’s ’83 will not hit theatres on the scheduled date. Their releases have been postponed. So for the rest of the year, we will have ‘crowded Fridays’. It takes a year of planning to choose a release date. The filmmakers take into consideration various factors like avoiding clashes with other big releases, festive weekends and so on. All that cannot happen now.
Apart from Sooryavanshi and ’83, there are other big-budgeted films featuring big stars lined up, including Ludo, Gunjan Saxena – The Kargil Girl, Gulabo Sitabo, Coolie No. 1, Shakuntala Devi – Human Computer, Radhe – Your Most Wanted Bhai, Laxmmi Bomb and others.
Experts from the industry say that clashes between big projects is inevitable. Trade analyst Ramesh Bala says that it’s going to be crowded Fridays and things might get a little messy too.
He further adds that it’s not just Bollywood but the box office releases of big Hollywood and South Indian films have also been postponed. “Nobody really knows when the situation will be back to normal. Apart from the big clashes, it will also put pressure on the smaller films releasing two-three months down the road,” he says.
Trade analyst Girish Johar says that all the key concerned parties have to sit together and chalk out a plan. “Earlier, we had 52-53 weeks but we have already lost one quarter of the year, so now we have roughly 30-35 weeks to release the films. The concerned stakeholders have to discuss among themselves what is the best way forward and plan in a systematic manner so that everyone gets a fair chance,” says Johar.
The clashes mean revenue will be divided. In the past, we have seen the outcome when two big films have released on the same day. “When a big film has a solo release, it has access to more screens and can rake in the moolah during the opening weekend. But when two or more big films release, the clashes will affect their fortune,” adds Bala.
Johar says that because of the losses faced in the first quarter, the industry is trailing behind by Rs 500 crores. “The government will look into things by March 31 and I hope that when things get back to normal, the losses are covered up in the next three quarters. Every film, big or small, if spaced and planned out well and does 10 per cent more than average business because the audience wants to watch a good film, provided it’s a good film, the loss can be covered smoothly and easily,” he adds.
Experts also admit that because of the clashes, producers this year cannot just depend on festival or holiday weekends to release their films.
“Earlier, only big films would release during holidays or festivals while other films would release over the year. But now, they have to share dates and the planning has to be done in a more organised manner. Unlike last year when 200-250 films released in 52 weeks, now 150 films will release in 35 weeks,” adds Johar.