The Indian film industry is one of the highest-earning markets in the country. In recent times, however, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have brought all production to a halt. Multiplexes have been closed down for over three months now, causing huge losses of revenue. Losses amounting to almost Rs. 1000 crore have already been estimated during the lockdown, with more to come in the following months.
|| Pratyasha Sharma
The Cannes film festival, set to be held from May 12th this year, has been indefinitely postponed. Every year, more than 40,000 people flock to this celebration of global cinema. Ticket sales alone rev up 1.5 million Euros with separate charges for food and lodging. Box-office losses are at an all-time low too, with hundreds of films delayed or cancelled.
Meanwhile, Bollywood films scheduled to be released during the first half of 2020 have either postponed their dates or attempted online releases on popular streaming platforms. Cinema operators are on the losing end in both scenarios. Skipping the theatrical release has set back multiplexes crores of revenue. The exhibition industry has shown alarm at these measures, worried that digital releases may be preferred post-lockdown as well.
However, production houses have assured this will not be the case since earnings from OTT platforms are quite low and hence, such releases are only feasible for low-budget films.
Another cause of concern for cinema operators is the growing trend of binge-watching on Netflix and similar subscription-based services. With subscription plans of less than Rs.200 per month, these services contain thousands of movies, series and documentaries- all available in the comfort of home. The expansion of these platforms had posed a threat earlier as well, but cinemas were still earning decently. The competition has reached its peak now that theatres are losing release rights rapidly.
As cities across the country are considering a return to normal life, cinemas are expected to reopen at reduced capacity. In preparation for post-lockdown business, multiplexes are offering huge discounts on premium seats.
A few chains are also considering special contests and challenges as part of a promotion. Operators are at a rush to reserve rights and join hands with the biggest production houses. Unlock protocols dictate that theatres can run only at 30-38% occupancy, with emphasis on sanitisation and social distancing procedures. Along with reduced ticket prices and already incurred losses, 2020 has proven to be a tough year for multiplexes. PVR
Cinemas, one of the most popular chains in India, has reported a revenue dip of 23 per cent while Inox saw a decline of 29 per cent.
Watching movies in theatres has always been a big cultural phenomenon in India and multiplexes are expecting a return to glory post-pandemic.