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International markets may set precedent for Indian theatres, say trade experts

While it could take movie theatres in India another couple of weeks to officially be allowed to reopen, as individual state governments ease covid restrictions, film-makers will wait a few weeks after these announcements to start bringing movies to cinemas.Premium
While it could take movie theatres in India another couple of weeks to officially be allowed to reopen, as individual state governments ease covid restrictions, film-makers will wait a few weeks after these announcements to start bringing movies to cinemas.

  • Theatre owners say there is appetite for fresh content and people are ready to step out of home after over a year of staying locked up

With films such as A Quiet Place Part II, The Conjuring 3 and In the Heights having lit up the US box office, and markets such as China, UAE and the UK seeing recovery, the Indian movie trade hopes cinemas here go the same way once permissions to reopen come in. Theatre owners say there is appetite for fresh content and people are ready to step out of home after over a year of staying locked up. However, India’s slow vaccination drive and the absence of fresh content may be a dampener.

“Hollywood has started the process of recovery on a fairly decent note and everyone (in India) is expecting and hoping we follow the same route," film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. Apart from North America, markets such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore have also opened well, Johar said. In fact, action flick Fast and Furious 9, released in China, managed $8.9 million in its third weekend in that country, making for a total $204.5 million as of earlier this week, according to an analysis by The Hollywood Reporter.

“After a devastating year for movie theatres, attendance is starting to pick up and cinema owners are beginning to regain their mojo. In the last few weeks, A Quiet Place Part II and The Conjuring 3 have notched notable ticket sales—a trend that Hollywood is hoping will continue throughout the summer with F9, Black Widow, and other would-be blockbusters," a Variety report said.

While it could take movie theatres in India another couple of weeks to officially be allowed to reopen, as individual state governments ease covid restrictions, film-makers will wait a few weeks after these announcements to start bringing movies to cinemas, Johar said.

“People will come (to theatres) as long as there are new choices (of films to watch)," Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, had said in an earlier interview to Mint, referring to the positive reception to south Indian offerings such as Master, Jathi Ratnalu and Uppena released earlier this year. “As cinemas, we need to focus on communicating, especially to the first batch that comes in, that we’re ready with all safety and hygiene protocols and make the right kind of marketing noise for which producers should also join in," Gianchandani had added.

Apart from cinemas coming up with effective marketing campaigns, the ongoing vaccination drive will be key to Indians returning to movies and outdoor entertainment, in general, trade experts such as Johar say. While the US has fully vaccinated 43% of its population, India has managed 3.3%.

“Vaccination will be crucial even to markets such as Mumbai opening up. The city is in level-III, as per latest guidelines by the state government, but could always be pushed lower if cases rise or benchmarks are not met," Johar pointed out. With Delhi and Maharashtra making up over 60% of the Hindi box office, positivity rate and vaccinations will be closely tracked in these states.

The other big focus would be availability of fresh content. While the first half of the year had seen southern movie industries bringing out a string of new films, Bollywood had lagged behind, relying on older content with its first mainstream release, Roohi, hitting screens only in March, nearly five months after government permits came in October.

“It’s not just the big, tent-pole films that are doing well. Even small- or medium-budget films can see traction with the right word-of-mouth," Johar said in reference to Hollywood box office, adding that it is evident people are looking forward to stepping out of home.

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