They took the lockdown in their wake, then the movie theater occupancy cap, but the growing graph of COVID-19 in Maharashtra, a blue chip market, is a source of serious concern for filmmakers who are hoping that their upcoming big ticket releases will lead to a resurgence of the struggling Hindi film industry.
The vaccination campaign is a beacon of hope, but clouds of uncertainty have darkened with the Maharashtra government announcing earlier this week that movie theaters will have to continue operating with at least 50% occupancy until ‘to March 31.
The central government had allowed the theaters to operate at full capacity from February after a nine-month hiatus.
Director Sanjay Gupta, whose lead role of John Abraham Mumbai Saga is due for release on March 19, admitted the COVID-19 situation in the state, which is home to the Hindi film industry and accounts for nearly 60% of the number. total new daily cases. in the country, is worrying.
“When we announced (the release), we knew the theaters were open with only 50% occupancy, so the same isn’t really alarming. What is worrying is the increase in the number of COVIDs, ”Gupta told PTI.
Besides Mumbai Saga, the other films gearing up for release are Parineeti Chopra – Arjun Kapoor starring Sandeep and Pinky Faraar, Rana Daggupati’s Haathi Mere Saathi and the biopic Saina Nehwal Saina. Rajkummar Rao and Janhvi Kapoor’s horror comedy Roohi, among the first big movies to hit theaters after the Center allowed theaters to run at full capacity, is being screened in theaters.
The coming months will also see the release of sprawling films such as Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi, Ranveer Singh’s 83 sports drama and Salman Khan’s Radhe.
Shibasish Sarkar, CEO of Reliance Entertainment Group, the banner behind the highly anticipated Sooryavanshi and 83, expressed hope that the vaccination campaign, which began this month, will help alleviate the situation in the state.
“I hope that very soon the surge in the number of COVIDs will be under control, and the 50 percent restrictions in theaters will also be removed,” Sarkar told PTI.
He added that the team is not alarmed by the guidelines as the safety of people is a priority.
“The health and safety of people is more important than entertainment. If the government feels that certain restrictions should be maintained, that is fine. The vaccinations are carried out quite aggressively. “
Sooryavanshi, directed by Rohit Shetty, is set for release on April 30, more than a year after its scheduled release date.
In an Instagram post, Shetty described the ongoing vaccination campaign as a “beacon of hope” for the team.
“As you should all be aware that Maharashtra theaters have currently been allowed to operate at 50% auditorium capacity as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we support the decision of the Maharashtra government to do so. to do.
“However, the bright side is that the vaccination campaign is also in full swing. Over 2.5 million people across India and over 22 lakh in Maharashtra have been vaccinated so far, ”Shetty wrote on Instagram.
The COVID-19 situation in the country will be better when his film is released, he hopes.
“So we believe that by the time our film is released it will be safe for you and your family to enter a movie theater and we also hope that the restrictions on the capacity of the auditorium will be lifted by then” , he wrote.
The continued occupancy cap only made matters worse for local exhibitors.
Manoj Desai, executive director of the G7 Multiplex in Mumbai and Maratha Mandir, said the occupancy cap, which has been in place since the state opened theaters in November, has damaged operations.
Roohi, for example, brought in over Rs 8 crore within three days of its release last Friday, but Desai said the deals were half of what they should have been.
It screened the horror comedy at its Bandra-based Gemini theaters with packed shows and an alternate seating arrangement.
“We would have done better deals if the theaters were running at full capacity. We thought that cap would be lifted soon, but that still hasn’t happened, which is certainly causing us losses. Even though “Roohi” performed well, our business was halfway due to the limitation, ”the veteran exhibitor told PTI.
The growing number of COVID-19 cases in Mumbai will discourage people from entering movie theaters.
“People visit cafes and restaurants, some normalcy seems to have been restored. But that should now translate into theaters. There are big films lined up, there is a strong buzz for new stuff and the vaccination campaign is also encouraging.
“If the theaters don’t open to full capacity and other guidelines are put in place, that won’t be good for us,” Desai said.
Looking at a pan-Indian photo, Bihar-based exhibitor Vishek Chauhan said the Maharashtra government’s decision on occupation will not affect Bollywood’s release schedule or the potential collection of films to come to the box office.
In January, the Tamil actor Master surprised the business when Thalapathy Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi stars brought the country over 150 crore rupees at 50% occupancy.
Chauhan said the fact that Master broke box office records – with limited occupancy and just 16 days before Amazon Prime Video started streaming – proved that no amount of restrictions could stop the business. of a film.
“If it’s a movie that gets a lot of excitement, people will even get to 25 percent. So the guidelines don’t really matter to the public, ”Chauhan said.
The exhibitor also expressed concern that there could be a huge setback if Maharashtra is completely locked down.
“If you derail Maharashtra again, you envision a more serious financial crisis. Nobody wants that. But the current occupation does not change anything. There are movie announcements every day, the directors are enthusiastic and no one is postponing their releases, ”he added.
Maharashtra recorded 17,864 new cases on Tuesday, its largest single-day increase this year, and 87 deaths. The count includes 1,954 new cases in Pune, followed by 1,951 in Nagpur and 1,922 in Mumbai.
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