Delhi’s cinema theatres are being allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity from Monday, July 26, but don’t expect a Hindi film release till August 15. Till the Bollywood films in the cans, including the much-anticipated Ranveer Singh starter 83 see the light of day, cinema-goers will have to be content watching the martial arts fantasy film “Mortal Kombat”.
And there’s more coming from Hollywood. “The films in the queue for August releases are the Vin Diesel blockbuster ‘F9‘ (‘Fast and Furious 9’), ‘The Conjuring 2: The Devil Made Me Do It’,” said Sanjay Ghai, COO of the distribution company Mukta Arts.
Trade watchers point out that cinema theatres will effectively open from July 30. As a spokesman for the multiplex major Inox put it: “This order came just yesterday. It will take some time for us to get ready for screenings, but we are also keen to open our cinemas as soon as we can.”
He added that 100 per cent of the Inox staff have been vaccinated and that Covid-19 protocols are being followed without any slackening of the guard.
With cinemas in Maharashtra still shut, the trade is looking at the public response to the reopening of Delhi theatres with muted anticipation. Trade analyst Karan Taurani pointed out the state contributes more than a quarter of the revenues earned by Bollywood productions.
The Inox spokesman, however, sounded more hopeful. “If the government feels cinemas are safe to open, then I am sure people won’t be apprehensive about coming to see films. We expect a good turnout.”
Sanjay Ghai of Mukta Arts said Hindi films will be lined up for release from August 15, but the market cannot really pick up till theatres are allowed to open in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. For the moment, therefore, he is looking forward to a revival of the theatre experience.
Taurani, though, is still not celebrating the Delhi decision. “The opening of Maharashtra is important,” he said. “I don’t see that happening soon, so I expect no dramatic change in the current market situation. Only Delhi cannot do wonders,” Taurani added. He also stressed the importance of an abatement of the public’s Covid fears. “Once that happens, the attendance at cinema theatres is bound to go up,” Taurani said.
Fellow analyst Vinod Mirani was sceptical about any major impact of the Delhi reopening. “Even if cinema theatres are allowed to open, where is the content?” he asked. “Delhi is second to what is known in trade circles as the ‘Bombay Circuit’, which is by far the biggest in terms of box-office collections,” he said.
What does it mean for the three big Bollywood films — 83, Bell Bottom with Akshay Kumar and Huma Qureishi and Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi — waiting to be released? When will they get to see the big screen? As Mirani put it, the producers won’t “risk it” till Maharashtra opens up.