Cinemas extend run of films despite poor returns and OTT releases

  • Recent films such as Maidaan, Laapataa Ladies and Aavesham which have either begun streaming on OTT platforms or will do so soon, are continuing to stretch their theatrical run

Lata Jha
First Published21 May 2024
Laapataa Ladies had made only  Rs. 18.59 crore at last count while Maidaan had earned Rs. 51.39 crore. (Photo: X)
Laapataa Ladies had made only Rs. 18.59 crore at last count while Maidaan had earned Rs. 51.39 crore. (Photo: X)

Recent films such as Maidaan, Laapataa Ladies and Aavesham continue their theatrical runs despite moving to OTT platforms, with cinemas seeing minimal returns. 

Trade experts indicate the theatrical industry has hit rock bottom, leaving cinemas with no choice but to play these older films at negligible footfalls and revenues.

Ironically, some of these recent films will see a 50-day run in theatres without really having set the cash registers ringing. For instance, Laapataa Ladies had only made 18.59 crore at last count while Maidaan had earned Rs. 51.39 crore.

“There is no option for cinemas at the moment. Whatever has arrived in theatres over the past few weeks hasn’t proven enough value for money,” Pranav Garg, managing director at Maya Palace, a two-screen cinema in Muzaffarnagar, said. 

“We can only hope we are providing some variety by playing films like Laapataa Ladies and Maidaan together, where we can at least manage some footfalls and people don’t go back entirely disappointed.”

Garg said several single-screen cinemas are looking to shut down for a few weeks as maintenance, staff and other overhead expenses are proving disproportionately high in comparison to returns from new releases. 

For now, the theatre has cut down on early morning and late night shows whereas afternoon and evening shows are registering 15-20% occupancies.

Also Read: Star fee set for correction as OTTs rationalize spends

Last week, the Telangana Theatres Association announced that the 450-odd single-screen cinemas in the state will remain shut until 26 May amid dwindling footfall and lack of notable releases.

Some theatre owners, however, still remain hopeful. Ashutosh Agarwal, owner of Star World Cinemas in Uttar Pradesh said the initial release of Ajay Devgn-starrer Maidaan had clashed with examinations but the theatre is now seeing bookings from schools in bulk and students coming in significant numbers. 

Also Read: The Indian film industry needs to up its movie marketing game

“Revenues are still pretty low but we are trying to organise festivals of some older hits along with bulk bookings for schools and colleges. We are also seeing if we can play regional language films from Telugu and Malayalam,” Agarwal said.

Further, the theatre is operating with reduced pricing and OTT releases do not make a difference to those who truly want to come to the cinemas, he added.

Elections play spoilsport

Film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar agreed the ongoing elections have played spoilsport for the movie release calendar and while no big Hindi language films have been released in theatres, supply from other languages including Hollywood has also dried up. 

The peak of the summer season usually sees tentpole Hollywood films arriving in theatres. However, it hasn’t happened this time, thanks to the writers and actors’ strike last year that threw things off gear, according to trade experts. 

“A lot of films are continuing their run in cinemas because there is no other option. The traction is obviously far from extraordinary but it is one way to hang in there,” Johar said. 

While there was previously much debate about films releasing on OTT only after their theatrical run, trade experts say theater owners must continue screening these films since producers agreed to stream them online within eight weeks.

Also Read: Should OTT platforms be regulated the same way cable television is?

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