NEW DELHI: Across the world, bringing the film business back to life seems to be a challenge amid the coronavirus pandemic as cinemas crawl towards reopening, while dealing with likely abysmally low attendance once open. Some are yet to take a call going back to business.
Keeping this in mind, Hollywood, that depends on wide global showcasing, has pushed its first big post-lockdown release, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, to the end of July from 17 July, while Wonder Woman 1984 is now slated for an October release compared to the 14 August date it had committed to earlier.
The US movie industry that depends on international markets for nearly 60% of its box office revenues, has clearly seen limited opportunity in foreign territories for now, as reopenings remain unclear.
"The trend on reopening of cinemas has not been good so far and it is clear that audiences’ safety and government regulations are critical at this point," film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar pointed out.
In India, there is as yet no decision on reopening movie theatres and the government has only released guidelines for resuming shooting. Film producers, theatre owners and other movie industry representatives had a virtual meeting with I&B minister Prakash Javadekar earlier this month to discuss hardships being faced by the industry where a promise to evaluate the situation in June had been made.
Meanwhile, major theatres in the US plan to resume operations in mid-July, giving some time for things to settle down before Nolan’s $200 million tentpole hits the screens. The country’s biggest multiplex chain AMC Entertainment has said it will open bulk of its theatres on 15 July, with the rest just over a week later. That means, Disney’s action drama Mulan, scheduled for 24 July as of now, will help ignite some excitement in the run-up to Tenet. The trend on reopening in the country hasn’t been great so far though, with states like Georgia that opened small screens reporting dismal attendance while playing old hits, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
China, having shut down theatres after reopening them once in March, has allowed again operations but under strict social distancing guidelines while UAE has been started showcasing old films since the end of May. The country also brought back Tiger Shroff-starrer Baaghi 3, one of the last films to have hit screens before the lockdown in early March, which collected around $2,000 from 15 screens within one week, according to trade websiteBox Office India besides Punjabi film Chal Mera Putt 2, Tamil thriller Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal and Hollywood offerings The Invisible Man and The Gentleman.
Warner Bros too has decided to re-release Nolan’s 2010 hit Inception in the US on 17 July. Following that is a solid line-up, with The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run (7 August), Disney’s The One and Only Ivan (14 August), The New Mutants (28 August), Wonder Woman 1984 (2 October), Black Widow (6 November) and others.
In India though, things seem a bit complicated. According to a report by movie website Bollywood Hungama, producers like Yash Raj Films, Reliance Entertainment and others have offered exhibitors to play their old hits for free in the initial weeks to draw crowds to theatres. But experts say the business needs a new big film to truly bounce back.
“All the big cities that bring in majority of the box office are in red zones. At least a big film needs to release pan-India, it can’t just come to the green zones," said Mukesh Mehta of Malayalam film production and distribution company E4 Entertainment, explainin why the exhibition sector in the country can only hope for revival post August towards the festive season.