Anirban Roy Choudhury

Cinemas locked-down in Maharashtra; "Speed-breaker" in the revival journey

Maharashtra contributes to around 35 per cent of the theatrical revenue that the Hindi films generate.

On Sunday, the Maharashtra government announced partial lockdown during the week and complete lockdown at weekends. The decision has come after the state registered record spike in COVID cases. Though the government permitted filming without crowd, Cinemas have been asked to remain shut.

Maharashtra is a key market of the Hindi and Marathi films and the impact of the decision was visible in share prices. Among individual stocks, Inox Leisure slipped 8 per cent to Rs 256.60 while PVR was down 6 per cent at Rs 1,160 on the BSE.

"As a responsible organization, we completely relate to the COVID situation in Maharashtra. The revival process of the cinema industry had begun, and the recent curbs are much like a speed-breaker in the journey, which we shall surpass soon in a month’s time. Performances of movies like Roohi and Godzilla Vs Kong showed us that audiences are willing to turn up in big numbers for new and good quality content, even after an elongated lockdown which we saw last year," says Alok Tandon, CEO - INOX Leisure.

The recovery was supposed to be fuelled by big-budget movies such as Salman Khan starrer 'Radhe', 'Sooryavanshi' and the film on Kapil Dev's Team India, '83'. However, analysts suggest that the producers might not risk releasing such movies in the current scenario. Also, Maharashtra contributes to around 35 per cent of the theatrical revenue that the Hindi films generate.

Alok Tandon
Alok Tandon

"Each region in the Indian market has its own significance in our business ecosystem. While we understand the gravity of COVID situation in Maharashtra, we are extremely optimistic about the upcoming content and turnouts in the markets dependent on movies in other Indian languages, especially Southern and Eastern markets. Movies like Master, Roberrt and Uppena reinstated our faith in the passion prevalent for cinemas in the southern audiences. Yuvarathnaa, Sulthan and Wild Dog are currently performing exceedingly well in the South Indian markets," informs Tandon.

He adds, "The consumer behavior that we witnessed across the country in the last 2 months was phenomenal and pretty similar to the pre-COVID days in Southern markets, which gives us the confidence required for a drastic turnaround. Consumers had started turning up in huge numbers for new movies and found themselves extremely comfortable in the new operating protocols."

Sooryavanshi', '83', 'Bell Bottom', 'Pathan Prithviraj', 'Radhe', 'Jayeshbhai Jordaar', 'Brahmastra' and 'Laal Singh Chaddha' are a few big-budget Hindi movies listed to release this year. It is because of such a stellar lineup, the stakeholders in the industry earmarked 2021 to be a blockbuster year. But comes another lockdown. "2021 is destined to be a blockbuster year for us, and we are still certain about it," asserts Tandon, despite the order to keep cinemas shut.

"In the current situation, we have pinned our hopes on the rapid and widespread vaccination drive, which we hope would arrest the surge in cases," Tandon concludes.

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