Distributors of big-budget films have decided to wait out the busy cricket season over the next two-and-a-half months, opening a window for smaller films to get noticed, industry executives and analysts say.
Cricket is India’s most popular sport, and two back-to-back cricket tournaments, the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup and the Indian Premier League (IPL), are expected to keep audiences away from theatres until early May.
While the World Cup begins on Saturday, the IPL will run from 8 April to 4 May.
Cinema ticket sales are likely to drop 30-40% during this period, said Vajir Singh, an analyst and editor of trade magazine Box Office India.
A clutch of major films, including director Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, Double Dhamaal starring Ajay Devgn, and Ready starring Salman Khan, are expected to release between May and July. Their combined budget is Rs 300-400 crore, according to Komal Nahta, editor of Film Information, a trade magazine.
“Big films will clash post the cricketing season and eat into one another’s business. This will be detrimental to the industry in the long run,” said Komal Nahta, editor of Film Information, a film trade magazine.
But while big-budget films are avoiding releases until early May, niche, modest-budget movies such as Shagird, Chillar Party, Happi, Yeh Dooriyan and Run Bhola Run are due to be released in this period. Film Information’s Nahta pegged their combined budget at Rs 100-120 crore.
“Of course, (theatre) occupancies will be poor (while the cricket tournaments are on), and there won’t be any mega releases, especially during the World Cup. However, we are banking on the releases of smaller films during the time,” said Pramod Arora, group president and chief executive at multiplex chain PVR Ltd.
Sagar Ballary, director of Bheja Fry, which released during the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup in 2007, said big-budget films don’t like to clash with mega events, especially cricket.
“For smaller budget films, this is the only chance to get noticed. Bheja Fry had got a clean window (to release) and by word-of-mouth publicity, it became a hit,” he said.
Bheja Fry, made at a cost of Rs 50-60 lakh, went on to earn Rs 10-11 crore. Now, Ballary plans to release the sequel, Bheja Fry 2, in April.
Taran Adarsh, another film trade analyst, said that with only a handful of films releasing in the next two-and-a-half months, they have the chance to perform well.
“The content has to be very strong. Otherwise, with fewer footfalls and only marginal interest in films at the time, it’s difficult to break even,” Adarsh said.
Nahta said a small-budget film with good content can make profits of 15-20%. “But if a film fails, it can take a hit of 50% too,” he said.