Among all the states in India, West Bengal has seen the best reopening so far.
This is because of two reasons: enough new content, and strong footfalls in theatres as compared to other markets where theatres have restarted operations.
According to Mahendra Soni, Co-founder and Director, SVF Cinemas, one of the largest movie theatre chains in Eastern India, the occupancy rate in theatres in West Bengal is around 30-40 percent.
Compare this with other markets where cinemas have reopened, where the occupancy levels is 5 percent or less, said Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media, a media consulting firm.
One release a week in West Bengal
A Box Office India report, a Bollywood news portal notes that cinemas with a capacity of 300 people saw as many as 120-130 bookings for new releases like SOS Kolkata, Dracula Sir, and Rawkto Rawhoshyo.
Even on the content front, West Bengal has around 50 films that are ready in terms of production work and only final stages of post-production work is left, said Soni.
“I completed a film, which I had started, post-lockdown. So, supply chain is fixed for the coming year. Every week, there will be a release,” he added.
However, Soni still is looking forward for Bollywood releases.
“Even theatres in Bengal cannot survive only on Bengali content as it contributes 30 percent of the overall box office business. So, we need English and Hindi content. We can survive for couple of weeks with local content. However, the situation here (West Bengal) is better because repeat films do not have any market in India and here we have enough new content to show on the big screen,” he said.
Bollywood continues to outsmart Marathi films
While local content is working in West Bengal, the same is not the case in every market. For example, Maharashtra. Although theatres in Maharashtra have not opened, filmmaker Akshay Bardapurkar remains unsure about the fate of Marathi films in the current times.
He said that there are as many 20 medium to big size Marathi films that are ready for release but filmmakers will wait till March next year.
“Bollywood will dominate Marathi films. Regional content will not get a push because there is enough Bollywood content. Hence, you could see some films releasing in December but maximum releases will be between March and April,” he said.
Bardapurkar plans to release Goshta Eka Paithanichi next year in March or April. He also has plans to release AB aani CD in theatres as he believes there are many who would want to watch Amitabh Bachchan on the big screen.
The Bachchan-starrer AB aani CD saw a direct-to-digital release on Amazon Prime Video in May this year as theatres had to shut down due to the Coronavirus-led lockdown since March.
Be it Marathi or Bengali, every film market is in need of Bollywood ventures. If we look at Maharashtra, Bardapurkar said that every year, there are 200 Marathi films that are released, which, overall, do a business of around Rs 300 crore.
Compare this with the business Hindi films do in Maharashtra alone. It is around Rs 3,000 crore, he said.
However, currently, even Bollywood is seeing few takers as the content is old. Kapoor said that box-office collections for Bollywood films is around Rs 4-5 lakh, and, individually, films would have done around Rs 50,000-Rs 1 lakh.
Staggered timings hit Bollywood movies
Along with lack of Bollywood content, Soni said that the overall inventory is down by 30 percent because of staggered show timings.
“The number of shows have gone down by 20 percent as more time has to be given for intervals as well between two shows,” he said.
The interval time has gone up from 10 minutes in the pre-COVID period to 20 minutes currently. Also, after every show, the time gap has increased from 20 minutes to 40 minutes. The time between two shows is being used by theatre owners to sanitise the seats and the entire auditorium.
Food and beverage, too, is down by 30-40 percent, said Soni.
From F&B to footfalls, Soni, like many other exhibitors, is hoping to see the theatre business to bounce back to the pre-COVID levels by summer next year when major Hindi as well as Hollywood ventures are slated for release.
Films like Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi, John Abraham’s Satyameva Jayate 2, Hollywood ventures like No Time to Die are slated for release next year.Source : bit.ly/2ZNMWTA