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NEW DELHI: A bunch of big films across Hindi and south Indian languages have announced wrapping up shoots in the past few weeks in what film trade experts said could result in a strong line-up for theatres when they re-open fully.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, horror-comedy Bhediya starring Varun Dhawan and Kriti Sanon, Telugu film Maha Samudram, are ready some others like Pushpa, Acharya and Ghani, all three tent-pole Telugu language films featuring top stars, are in the final stages of production.

While theatres await clarity on reopening permits from Delhi and Maharashtra, films like war epic RRR, Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi, sports drama ‘83 and Rajinikanth’s Annatthe are likely to release by end of this year, post-Diwali. Others like Bhediya, Acharya, Pushpa and Kumar’s Bachchan Pandey will arrive next year.

A line-up announced in advance, hopefully with specific dates locked in, will help recreate the theatre-going habit among audiences, said Girish Johar, film producer and trade expert. “There will be plenty of options, without making for clutter in theatres, if releases are spaced out and timely planned. In the few weeks after reopening of theatres, the business doesn’t need a big release every week, even two per month should suffice," he said.

After the first lockdown, cinemas in the south had benefited from a consistent flow of releases across Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, with even small-budget titles like Jathi Ratnalu and Uppena setting the cash registers ringing.

“The bigger films will anyway wait for theatres but it is the smaller films that will always have the option of going to streaming platforms and have to be lured to cinemas with adequate showcasing to keep the business going," Johar pointed out.

Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said filmmakers have realised that there is always more money to be made from a theatrical release followed by an OTT premiere, which is why they are keen to hold on especially to big films. “Plus, even the streaming platforms want to bet on the big star films now," Pillai said referring both to the opportunity and challenges for mid-level films.

A senior executive at a media and entertainment company that produces both feature film and web content said the option of digital is always there but all filmmakers aspire for theatrical releases, especially since the past few months have seen streaming platforms burn their fingers with direct-to-digital acquisitions up to 100 crore that didn’t lead to a massive subscriber increase. “If the asset is good, it can do well at the box office even with unknown names. Plus, the big (streaming) paymasters in the market are also rationing their content costs now," the person said.

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