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NEW DELHI : Big-ticket Bollywood and southern films like Sooryavanshi, ’83, Pushpa: The Rise - Part One and RRR, slated for release November onwards, are likely to eat into the business of smaller regional language films.

Green shoots for the film exhibition business after the covid waves came from Punjabi and Bengali cinema, but these industries could slow down once star-studded Bollywood films hit theatres.

Trade experts said multiplexes should nurture these smaller films as it’s easier for them to go directly to digital platforms. Plus they are required to fill in theatres in the absence of bigger films that are staggered over the year.

Starting with Punjabi romantic comedy Honsla Rakh this Friday, regional films like Avijatrik (Bengali), Doctor Bakshi (Bengali) and Darling (Marathi) have been slated for the coming months.

“There are audiences who are waiting to watch these regional films and there will be no impact on their business if they can manage to get screens in the first place. However, with the Bollywood slate, that doesn’t seem possible," said Marathi film producer Akshay Bardapurkar, who has pushed his movie Chandramukhi from Diwali to Valentine’s Day to avoid the rush of back-to-back releases scheduled every week starting November.

Overall, about 110 Marathi language films are unreleased because of the covid-19 pandemic, Bardapurkar said, resulting in investments of around 200 crore remaining stuck. While Maharashtra government guidelines mandate that a certain number of screens are allotted to Marathi films each week, not every producer has contacts in the administration or producer unions, he added.

“Also, the subsidy that is promised to producers will only come if the film plays in theatres for at least seven days. Satellite channels too will pick up a title depending on box office noise," he said.

Dinesh Gupta, owner of Dimple Cinema in Karnal, Haryana, said Punjabi hits like Qismat 2 and Chal Mera Putt 2 had benefited from the absence of new Hindi films. “It’s not like we give up on Punjabi films when there are Hindi titles available but we do give priority to Bollywood. If a big Salman, Shah Rukh or Akshay Kumar film is running, we have to reduce shows for regional film," he added.

Even though multiplexes are often accused of ignoring smaller regional language films, Rahul Puri, MD, Mukta Arts and Mukta A2 Cinemas, said companies like theirs will have to strategize (shows and timings) based on locations and target audience.

“We will ensure to schedule the wide array of movies releasing during and post Diwali in such a manner that each and every title creates excitement," Puri said.

Although regional content did well even before the pandemic, these films were not in the limelight, Puri said. They are now getting due credit and reaching out to wider audiences because of different communication and their release on OTT platforms.

“Right now, it’s a case of more, the merrier. Every film that releases in theatres will help get the cycle going," said film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar.

Audience confidence in theatres will improve with every new film, he said. “Earlier, multiplexes never gave these regional films a fair chance. But if not nurtured now, they will lose them to OTT. And it is these small films that take up nearly 30-35 weeks in theatres every year and bring a crucial 40% of the revenue," he added.

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