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New Delhi: A bunch of small-budget films are taking advantage of the absence of big Bollywood films to find theatrical space.

Actor Sharman Joshi’s film Fauji Calling will hit screens on 12 March along with Time to Dance, starring Sooraj Pancholi and Isabelle Kaif, actor Katrina Kaif’s sister. Some of these films would not have found good theatre schedules in a normal year. However, in the aftermath of the pandemic, film theatres are still waiting for fresh content and audiences to return.

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Late last year, Richa Chadha-starrer Shakeela had managed to squeeze into the Christmas weekend along with Wonder Woman 1984, while the New Year week saw ensemble drama Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. Trade experts agree that such films made on shoe-string budgets featuring less popular actors would not have got prominent show timings earlier.

It would have also been easy for these films to directly go to OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms, but multiplex owners also needed content to test whether audiences are feeling confident enough to come to theatres, especially in the absence of big-budget titles, said film industry experts. On the part of theatres, it is not just about assigning more screens to the movies, but also offering flexible options to movie lovers who have been waiting for new content, in terms of shows and timings. In unusual circumstances such as these, such smaller films get at least 60-70% more screens because of the absence of other big films. On a big release date like Christmas 2020 that would have ideally seen the release of Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha, all screens would have been divided between it and Wonder Woman, leaving no room for a film like Shakeela.

Earlier during the pandemic, a couple of video streaming platforms had turned to small-budget old, unreleased films that had either not found buyers and distributors or had remained restricted to acclaim at film festivals, to ramp up their content libraries as production of web originals remained halted. While SonyLIV acquired Manoj Bajpayee’s Bhonsle and Rajat Kapoor’s dark comedy Kadakh, ZEE5 got Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Ghoomketu and Prakash Jha’s Pareeksha-The Final Test.

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