Elections, IPL reshape cinema calendars

Tamil movie, due for a 17th April release, has been postponed indefinitely. (Photo: X)
Tamil movie, due for a 17th April release, has been postponed indefinitely. (Photo: X)

Summary

  • As India prepares for elections and welcomes the IPL season, cinema halls go quiet with major film releases on hold

NEW DELHI : India's upcoming seven-phase marathon election, beginning in April, is poised to disrupt the movie release schedule over the next few months. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, anticipated blockbusters such as Thangalaan and Raayan have postponed their releases, missing the festival period of Easter, Eid, and Vishu as political campaigning has begun in full swing. While the Hindi film industry had no significant releases planned for this period apart from those timed for the Eid weekend, the Telugu film Kalki 2898 AD is likely to delay its early May release.

The box office is experiencing a downturn also because of the ongoing Indian Premier League tournament, which subscribers of JioCinema can watch for free.

“The summer period between April and May has traditionally been great to bring big movies to theatres. But things are quite dull this time with only small-scale releases planned. While the IPL streaming for free makes at least a 20-30% dent, the elections have only added to the crisis and nobody wants to take a chance with a big title," said Yusuf Shaikh, business head, feature films, distribution, acquisition and IPR management, Percept Picture Co. 

Shaikh added that although this period typically capitalizes on the post-examination vacation time for families and students, the current national mood has shifted focus.

This is evident in the lacklustre performance of recent titles like Madgaon Express and Swatantrya Veer Savarkar that have earned a modest 18.46 crore and 15.73 crore at the last count.

To be sure, trade experts have pointed out that the Hindi film industry had anticipated the challenges of this summer, leading to an uninspiring line-up right from the beginning.

After the Eid weekend releases of the action comedy Bade Miyan Chote Miyan and Ajay Devgn’s sports drama Maidaan, the next major film, Baby John starring Varun Dhawan, is not expected until late May. The impact of the election is anticipated to be more pronounced in southern India, where many actors have significant political ties.

Mukesh Mehta, founder of Malayalam production and distribution house E4 Entertainment, said that the IPL's free streaming presents an additional challenge, capturing much of the audience's attention.

This, however, means terrible news for the movie theatre business which may find it hard to survive on the back of a few, scattered, small-budget, non-star releases.

“It is evident that filmmakers have cleared the way and stayed away from big releases during this period, given that polling will be held region-wise and there is no one pan-India holiday for the same," film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. 

However, Johar sees a silver lining, suggesting that sleeper hits and smaller films could find an opportunity amid the absence of blockbuster competition.

“It is reasonable for films to push release dates when polls are going on," agreed Amit Sharma, managing director of Miraj Entertainment that operates multiplex theatres. 

However, Sharma expects Telugu film Kalki starring Prabhas and Deepika Padukone to arrive later in May despite the delay and still make a mark, bolstering overall business. “The issue with Hollywood, however, is that much of the tentpole slate is lined up post July, given that they had shut productions (owing to the writers and actors’ strike last year)," Sharma added.

Also Read: Netflix needs another midstream change in India. Here’s why

 

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