With cinema halls in Maharashtra getting a go ahead to reopen from October 22, the film industry is all set to light up some sparks at the box office. And the clash between Bollywood, Hollywood and Rajinikanth on Diwali will set the tone for the ensuing theatrical battles.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, on Saturday, announced the reopening of the theatres across the state after a meeting with filmmaker Rohit Shetty along with other theatre representatives and exhibitors.
Soon after the announcement, Shetty announced the arrival of his much-awaited film, Sooryavanshi, starring Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh, Ajay Devgn and Katrina Kaif, on Diwali. The film will fight it out at the box office with Marvel’s superheroes from Eternal, led by Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden and Rajinikanth’s Diwali outing with Annaathe.
“It will be a big screen Diwali and hopefully will be a blockbuster one. The industry needs this revival and given that Maharashtra is one of the biggest markets, we hope to see the return of audiences to the theatres,” shares producer Anand Pandit.
According to director and producer Abhishek Pathak, the move will “give the industry and exhibition partners the necessary impetus to tide over from the pandemic slow-down.”
Producer and trade guru Girish Johar is also very optimistic about the filmy Diwali celebrations at the box office, as he says, “We can already see so much excitement and movements in the industry”.
Here, producer Amar Butala adds, “The period between November and the end of December is traditionally a popular window for cinemas as both Diwali and Christmas see huge footfalls. The release of Sooryavanshi in Diwali will ensure this year ends on a positive note for Bollywood”.
For trade expert Joginder Tuteja, going forward will be “first in and first out format”, with the films which were ready for a long time to be open in theatres first. And trade guru Taran Adarsh is hoping for more many films announcing their release dates in the next 10 days “as everyone was waiting for this moment”.
BIG FILMY FUTURE
According to trade pundits, the films which will soon announce their release dates include Antim, Prithviraj, Shamshera, Satyameva Jayate 2, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Jersey, ‘83, Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Bunty Aur Babli 2, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, Tadap and Attack.
“There will be at least two films releasing every week because there is such a big backlog, since everything got pushed after the second lockdown. It is going to be a barrage of films post Diwali,” asserts trade expert Komal Nahta.
As per Tuteja, along with big films finally opening on the big screen, there will also be a flurry of small films, and foresees around “20 or more” films to be out by the year end, which will prove to be crucial to bring Bollywood back on its feet.
“There’s a buzz about Prithviraj releasing alongside Sooryavanshi, which I don’t think will happen, since both are Akshay’s films. In fact, there are high chances that John Abraham’s Satyameva Jayate 2 might clash with Sooryavanshi. There movies have been coming on the same day for quite some time, like Gold and Satyameva Jayate, and then Batla House with Mission Mangal,” shares Tuteja, who feels Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha will keep its release date for Christmas.
TO CLASH OR NOT TO CLASH
Amid all this, there is a growing sentiment of industry to stand in solidarity with Shetty and not bring out their film alongside Sooryavanshi. As per Johar, that’s because the team has not only patiently waited, but also has all it takes to revive the box office business.
But for some industry experts, avoiding clashes despite the backlog is a smart and strategic move.
“We can’t afford clashes just when we are seeing signs of revival. Clashes should be avoided for at least the next six months. It will only divide the audience in the theatres at a time when many are still running with 50 percent capacity restriction. We should talk to each other and space out accordingly,” says expert Atul Mohan.
Bringing a different side of the story, Tuteja points out, “It is the world of business. I do not think that anyone who has ₹50 crore or more stuck will wait. They will try to make the most of it, so clashes will be there. People will come to watch the movie which is good and it will work”.
Echoing similar sentiment, director Anees Bazmee says, “Normally clashes should be avoided, but the situation is such that people are desperate to release their films. For instance, Diwali is a big festival, and other filmmakers will try to make the best out of it, but Sooryavanshi ko usse kuch farak nahi padega”. Bazmee himself will wait and watch the situation at the box office before deciding the future course of his Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2.
Director Mahesh Manjrekar, who is eyeing November for the release of Antim, shares, “It is actually impossible to avoid clashes because so many films are ready for release. If we start avoiding clashes, nothing will be possible. We have to let the films release, and good films will do well.”
THEATRE OWNERS SPEAK UP
Meanwhile, theatres owners are finally breathing a sigh of relief after many months. Calling it a positive development, Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR Pictures and president of The Multiplex Association of India (MAI), shares, “In addition to it, Karnataka has permitted 100% seating capacity, and I am sure other states will follow soon. We also expect more producers announcing release dates in the six-seven days”.
Manoj Desai, executive director of Mumbai’s G7 Multiplex (Gaiety Galaxy) and Maratha Mandir Cinema, “We are just waiting to hear for the SOPs, and we are raring to go. It has been a really long time that we waited for this moment”.
When it comes to clashes, the theatres are not really fretting. “We would want releases to be optimised in a manner which works all. But we believe that we have enough capacity to accommodate more than two films. I don’t see a problem but that said it is the decision of the producers to take,” concludes Gianchandani.