New Delhi: Last week, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, co-producer of Padmavati, voluntarily deferred the December release of its period saga as protests on the film’s historical accuracy continued across the country. The delay in the Rs150 crore project, which does not have a new release date yet, has impacted, more than anything else, the broader movie schedule for the entire season.

A bunch of films have advanced their release dates, while others are waiting for 2018 to kick in.

“Whenever big films like Padmavati get released, producers avoid the two or three week-window around them," said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. They do so in view of paucity of screens, and limited interest and paying capacity for smaller films when movies of scales as massive as Padmavati arrive in theatres, he said.

Given that the first weekend of December is now free, Kapil Sharma-starrer Firangi and Arbaaz Khan- and Sunny Leone-starrer Tera Intezaar will now take the slot, avoiding the clash they were earlier facing with other films like Kadvi Hawa, Ajji and Murder on the Orient Express the week before. Meanwhile, Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s production Fukrey Returns has been advanced to the week of 8 December instead of the 15 December one which the makers were trying to avoid, expecting the Padmavati hype to continue well beyond its first week.

“Some films have also benefited in their box office collections," said film trade and business expert Girish Johar. “Tumhari Sulu, for instance, got a clean run post its release on 17 November with no big releases thereafter, as did Hollywood films like Justice League, Coco and Murder on the Orient Express. There is a dearth of movies at the moment, exhibitors don’t really have anything to play."

While the Vidya Balan-starrer made Rs26.19 crore at last count, DC’s superhero film Justice League earned about Rs25 crore. Last Friday’s films, Coco and Murder on the Orient Express, too, Johar added, managed about Rs2.75 crore and Rs3.25 crore, respectively.

Though some films got a respite, it’s likely to be an underwhelming end to an even bleaker year for the broader trade circuit. The string of flops, including big-ticket films like Jab Harry Met Sejal, Tubelight, Jagga Jasoos, Rangoon and others, have already ensured a dismal 2017 at the box office. While S.S Rajamouli’s Telugu epic fantasy Baahubali 2: The Conclusion has been the biggest hit of the year with collections of more than Rs500 crore within India alone, Bollywood has seen only one Rs200 crore earner (Golmaal Again) and a few Rs100 crore grossers (Judwaa 2, Toilet-Ek Prem Katha, Raees, Badrinath Ki Dulhania). Johar said the annual figures were anyway likely to be 10-15% lower than most years and the delay in Padmavati is a huge blow to the industry, which was expecting the Sanjay Leela Bhansali magnum opus to set the cash registers ringing along with Salman Khan’s Christmas release Tiger Zinda Hai.

“Given the cold weather, December hasn’t traditionally been seen as the most lucrative month for movie business. In the past few years though, Aamir Khan has changed the game," Mohan said, referring to Christmas blockbusters like Dangal, PK and Dhoom 3. This year too, despite no promise of an offering from Khan, trade experts expected fireworks from two of the season’s biggest titles in a gap of three weeks—Padmavati and Tiger Zinda Hai.

“There were a lot of hopes riding on the two films to together salvage the situation. One expected at least Rs500-600 crore from both combined. With a loss of about Rs300-350 crore from the year’s scorecard given Padmavati’s delay, it’s totally up to Tiger to save the day," Mohan said.

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