The unexpected pandemic and subsequent lockdown has hit the entertainment industry hard. Even though the theatres have now reopened and are running with 50 per cent occupancy, the few films that did release in the theatres didn’t register encouraging numbers. Hence, film producers are understandably scared to take a gamble with their big-ticket releases by opting for a theatrical run.

But the release of Tamil film ‘Master’ on January 13, that’s running to packed houses, with early morning and late night shows being planned, should be the silver lining everyone has been waiting for. Leading South distributor Shibu Thameen, who has distributed 104 films, including several projects toplined by South superstars Vikram and Vijay, says, “Despite 50 per cent occupancy, ‘Master’ is breaking records in certain territories. It has paved the way for lots of other films, which are now gearing up for a February/March/April release.” Master’s success proves that filmmakers’ bravery coupled with quality content will be rewarded by the audience in the form of collections.

With several big-ticket films like ‘Sooryavanshi’, ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, ’83, ‘Radhe: Most Wanted Bhai’ biding time to get a release in the theatres, now might be the right time to discuss dates. But the trade is still divided over it and here’s why:

India starts its immunisation drive from tomorrow and with the availability of vaccines, life will start bouncing back to normal. This is an encouraging sign for theatres that have suffered heavy losses due to the pandemic. Exhibitor Akshaye Rathi is sure that it will soon be business as usual for them. “The only reason why our business has not regained its vigour is because people are not getting the content that they want to watch,” he adds.

But what is a result of lack of good content reads as lack of enthusiasm to step out to watch a film as Reliance Entertainment CEO Shibasish Sarkar proved when he had earlier hypothesised that he might not get the same collections with ‘Sooryavanshi’ and ’83 which he would have in the pre-pandemic times. But Akshaye counters demanding the assumption be backed by some data. “I agree that cinemas have opened up to only 50 per cent capacity even now but do you know that all the auditoriums have been opened to ‘Master’? Plus, the number of shows per auditorium have been increased too. This, in turn, has helped to not dilute the collections of the film. We can plan similarly for ’83, ‘Sooryavanshi’, “Radhe’ and others. This seems to be the only right way to come back,” asserts Akshaye, insisting that Bollywood start testing the waters. “If they don’t, it will lead to closure of more theatres which will only lead to a fight later for release dates and result in eating into each other’s share,” he prophesises.

Though theatres in Rajasthan are yet to open, distributor Sunil Bansal is optimistic and seconds Akshaye when he says, “Big corporates and film stars should make their movies available in the public domain now. Theatres in Rajasthan are expected to open by January 20, or February 1 at least.”

When reached out, trade analyst Komal Nahta informs that Reliance Entertainment has already taken note of Master’s success and are now thinking about a release. “They are planning to release ‘Sooryavanshi’ in the Holi week,” he reveals.

However, not everyone is onboard with the idea of releasing big-ticket Bollywood films immediately. Distributor Ramesh Sippy, who has also distributed ‘Master’ in the Mumbai circuit, though excited about the numbers being clocked in by the Tamil film, points out that Bollywood might not garner a similar response. “The audience in the South has a very different temperament. They worship their actors; temples are built for them. Do you have such euphoria here? Let us not be swayed by its success. What happens in the South cannot be the barometer to decide fortunes in Bollywood,” he chastises.


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By vinayak