NEW DELHI: Bollywood has ended its worst first six months of the year with losses of over ₹1,000 crore as theatres remain shut for over 100 days now. The covid-19 pandemic has led to zero revenues for the first time ever for theatre owners and deprived the industry of a bunch of big-ticket, mid-sized and small-scale films which could have together brought significant returns at the box office especially during these summer months when schools are shut.
“Needless to say, the first half of the year has been a complete disaster," said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar, adding that the first half of 2019 had, in comparison, notched up revenues of around ₹2,400 crore.
However, even before, cinemas shut shop mid-March, 2020 was lagging behind 2019 with flops such as Chhapaak ( ₹32.55 crore), Panga ( ₹22.36 crore) and Love Aaj Kal ( ₹33.39 crore). Other underperfomers included Street Dancer 3D ( ₹62.20 crore), Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhaan ( ₹58.92 crore) and Thappad ( ₹29.70 crore).
Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji- The Unsung Warrior ( ₹269.70 crore) and Tiger Shroff’s Baaghi 3 ( ₹92.31 crore) were the only bonafide profit-makers in this period, with the latter having suffered a hit to its business as theatres shut abruptly.
In contrast, the first half of 2019 had thrown up money-spinners such as Uri-The Surgical Strike ( ₹244 crore), Gully Boy ( ₹134.24 crore), Total Dhamaal ( ₹150.07 crore), Kesari ( ₹151.87 crore), Bharat ( ₹197.34 crore) and Kabir Singh ( ₹276.34 crore).
It would be unfair to compare this year to any other, Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema said, given the unusual circumstances. It is, however, hard to miss the potential for great business that the period carried with an impressive line-up of films, including Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi and Laxmmi Bomb, sports drama ’83, Varun Dhawan-starrer Coolie No.1, Salman Khan’s Radhe, among others. The bigger blow came from the fact that several potentially profitable films such as Shoojit Sarkar’s Gulabo Sitabo and Karan Johar’s Gunjan Saxena-The Kargil Girl have already opted for direct-to-digital releases on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix respectively.
“The two Eid offerings, Radhe and Laxmmi Bomb together could have at least fetched around ₹200 crore," Mohan added.
As of now, trade experts and theatre owners have even bigger worries to deal with. With no clarity from the government on when cinemas will reopen and films increasingly making their way to digital platforms, exhibitors are likely to also struggle with low occupancies in the initial weeks after operations resume. Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, joint managing director, PVR Ltd said the challenge is to make up the loss of the past one quarter in the remaining three quarters of the year.
“There is no doubt the business is crumbling," Johar said.