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NEW DELHI: A bunch of top Hollywood studios have decided to postpone their big tent-pole movie releases, a move that could make things difficult for Indian theatres who have been struggling to woo audiences back to the cinemas amid lack of much local content.

Late last month, James Bond’s latest adventure No Time to Die was postponed to 8 October from its 2 April date. Universal Pictures too announced that its action thriller, Nobody, was moving from 26 February to 2 April, while Sony Pictures has re-dated titles such as Peter Rabbit 2, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Cinderella.

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“Since the movie (No Time to Die) carries a massive price tag around $200 million, it relies on substantial global ticket sales to turn a profit. That’s nearly impossible to achieve at a time when most movie theaters are closed, and the few that remain open have been operating at a reduced capacity," said a Variety report.

To be sure, theatre owners in India do not see this as good news.

“These delays are definitely adding to the content lag and the situation is pretty desperate right now," independent distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi said. On the other hand, a few months from now into summer, far too many films will be vying for space in theatres, adding to the clutter and will be difficult to accommodate, he pointed out. If released immediately, a lot of films could get twice or thrice the amount of showcasing they would under ordinary circumstances, trade experts feel.

“We cannot deny the impact of any movie being pushed back, as fresh and good quality content is the need of the hour for the Indian cinema exhibition industry. On a positive note, a delay in release depicts the producer’s commitment towards a theatrical release, giving us the comfort that the movie would hit the screens at some point or the other, and it bodes well for the future, if not the present," Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer – INOX Leisure Ltd said.

With the government allowing 100% occupancy in theatres, local producers are more confident about getting audiences back and will announce release dates which may fill up any gap created by the delay of Hollywood releases, Jyala said.

Kunal Sawhney, senior vice-president at Carnival Cinemas, pointed out that any of these films can be pushed back to earlier dates since the material is ready for showcasing and most publicity and advertising only takes place on social media.

“Rising infections in the US and Europe remain a concern for the entire filmed entertainment sector. That said, the box office prospects of the Hollywood films that have been deferred will not be impacted. There is a huge pent-up demand for Hollywood films in the country and once the regular theatrical release schedule resumes, we will see demand by force at cinemas," Kamal Gianchandani, chief executive officer, PVR Pictures said, adding that the ongoing vaccination drive in various countries, including India, is a huge positive for the industry and the recent theatrical success of Master is a validation of the pent-up demand that exists.

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