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Zee Studios has announced the release of its comedy drama Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari starring Manoj Bajpayee and Diljit Dosanjh in cinemas for Diwali.
Zee Studios has announced the release of its comedy drama Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari starring Manoj Bajpayee and Diljit Dosanjh in cinemas for Diwali.

Theatre owners pin hopes on Diwali with mix of old, new films

  • Some film producers had held back from releasing films online, including Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s production Tuesdays and Fridays and Yash Raj Films’ Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar and Bunty Aur Babli 2

NEW DELHI: Theatre owners in India are keen on making the most of the upcoming Diwali weekend, expecting pan-India re-openings by early November after a seven-month shutdown. Content curation remains an issue though, with most films having gone to video streaming platforms before the home affairs ministry allowed re-opening of cinemas.

But theatre owners say they would rather capitalise on the festive weekend that has long been the film business’s most lucrative period than complain of the loss of the annual Bollywood tentpole.

As of now, Zee Studios has announced the release of its comedy drama Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari starring Manoj Bajpayee and Diljit Dosanjh in cinemas for Diwali. Ahead of Diwali though, Zee will bring its two other films, Khaali Peeli and Ka Pae Ranasingam that it released on its new pay-per-view service Zee Plex to cinemas this week while PVR Pictures will showcase Hollywood movies, My Spy, Force of Nature, and The Rental in properties that have been allowed to reopen, starting this weekend.

West Bengal, the first state to announce reopening of cinemas, has Bengali films--Dracula Sir and SOS Kolkata--lined up for Durga Puja. Ashish Saksena, chief operating officer, cinemas, BookMyShow expects 70% of all cinemas to reopen within October and the rest, led by Maharashtra, a key business territory, to follow. The ticketing site has rolled out a new feature called ‘My Safety First’ that will list various safety indicators available across every cinema listed on the platform, enabling users to make an informed decision.

“The idea is to build consumer confidence until Diwali and make sure cinema is back by then," said Pramod Arora, chief growth and strategy officer, PVR Ltd adding that both studios and theatre chains are working together to activate the best line-up possible amid these unusual circumstances.

Apart from Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, exhibitors say they are aware some film producers had held back from releasing their films online, including Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Tuesdays and Fridays and Yash Raj Films’ Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar and Bunty Aur Babli 2.

Regional language films will also help recovery in their indivistates.

“It is difficult to project consumer behaviour but the comeback is likely to be slow and steady," Arora added.

While there are talks of Hollywood tentpole, Christopher Nolan’s Tenet releasing for Diwali in India, trade experts say theatre owners may also be compelled to take on films that have committed to an OTT release including Laxmmi Bomb and Dil Becharato fill seats in these unforeseen circumstances, leading to the country’s first hybrid release model.

“This is not a call that can be taken by an individual operator but will have to come from the Multiplex Association of India. However, this is an extraordinary situation and we are open to it as an individual company," said PV Sunil, managing director at Carnival Cinemas, which is planning to run older hits like Baahubali, PK and Sairat till new offerings are available. Rahul Puri, managing director at Mukta A2 Cinemas, agreed some producers will consider a theatrical run even if an OTT deal is done.

"However, these are obviously up to the OTT platforms to agree. They have paid substantially for premiere and anything that could disrupt that would need consideration," he added.

When asked, Netflix declined to comment while Disney+ Hostar did not respond. However, Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, content, Amazon Prime Video India, said the call on this “would depend entirely on the case and there are many nuanced elements that will have to be considered."

“For now, we are really hopeful about Diwali and have to work together as a unit to rally behind each cinema," independent exhibitor Akshaye Rathi said.

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