The cost of ‘Padmavati’ delay
New Delhi: More than a week after Viacom18 Motion Pictures, the co-producer of Padmavati, voluntarily deferred the film’s release, nationwide, agitations around Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period saga refuse to die down. At last count, Bihar had joined the list of states banning the theatrical release of the film, following Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab.
The financial implications of the indefinite delay in the release of the Rs150 crore budget film are many. The first to be affected, quite obviously, is Viacom. While it isn’t clear how the studio had raised funds for the film, there is definitely an opportunity cost linked to the amount.
Viacom did not respond to Mint’s queries. However, in an earlier interview, Sudhanshu Vats, chief executive officer, Viacom18, had said the studio had recovered its investment even before theatrical release through international distribution rights, music, satellite and digital sales.
While Amazon Prime Video has the digital streaming rights for Rs20-25 crore, industry experts estimate the satellite rights to be bought for a minimum of Rs20 crore and music for Rs10 crore.
Still, as theatrical release and the remaining recovery remain uncertain, the studio’s future projects may be impacted.
“Their investment, however much it is, is blocked for now and cannot be used anywhere, so if they need money elsewhere, they will have to look at other sources,” said Girish Menon, director, media and entertainment, KPMG India. “They might be hoping that by January, a bulk of the money would come back (from box office earnings) so their planning for future projects gets affected. For all you know, Viacom may need to push some of its smaller movies or redo its investment portfolio because this money is stuck.”
Priyanka Chaudhary, partner at Grant Thornton India LLP, added that delays in film releases can stretch budgets, adding to interest cost, among others. Besides, producers may need to incur excess publicity and advertisement expenses to continue to sustain viewer interest.
Another implication, quite evidently, is the need to re-ignite the marketing campaign for the film. What may have been a Rs30-40 crore marketing budget, industry experts say, may now potentially be in the range of Rs60-70 crore.
“The movie’s already in the news, so promotion is not an issue. But there would be a re-marketing effort required, maybe post the Gujarat elections to recover the buzz and create some kind of a positive impact,” said Saurabh Uboweja, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of brand consulting firm Brands of Desire. “Closer to release, the makers might go for a blitz to make the distributors and exhibitors feel confident (of the film).”
Uboweja added that the big traditional marketing campaign for the film was only about to begin when controversy broke and brought things to a halt. The central public relations machinery will now have to focus on safety as a concern and making people comfortable about coming to theatres and watching the movie.
The third implication has to do with the opportunity loss of the lucrative December holiday period.
“You’d fixed a release window which is now gone and you have to identify a new one which may or may not be optimum. Generally, all the high-profile windows are booked a year in advance,” Menon said, adding that the next holiday weekend of Republic Day already has Akshay Kumar’s PadMan slated for release and clashing with it or any other big film would only mean an adverse impact on collections of both movies. Further in the year, the school examination period crops up, followed by the Indian Premier League (IPL).
To be sure, there are people other than the Padmavati team affected in the value chain. First are the distributors who may have blocked theatres, screens and show timings and extended minimum guarantee payments, especially to single screens. Second, theatre owners themselves who have nothing, at least nothing as big as Padmavati, to fill the free slot on 1 December and thereafter. Distributor Ramesh Sippy said this was likely to result in a dry December for all multiplex chains, contrary to expectations from the month to up scales for Bollywood that has had a particularly terrible year. The annual figures are expected to be at least 10-15% lower than most years with the Rs300-350 crore earnings anticipated from Padmavati gone for a toss.
“Of course, it’s created a crisis for us. We hadn’t planned for any other big film for two weeks post 1 December. It’s a huge void,” said Rajendar Singh, vice-president, programming and distribution, INOX Leisure Ltd.