It was a ‘bigger release’ for many films but movies like Dil Bechara, Gunjan Saxena-The Kargil Girl and Shakuntala Devi that were released on OTT platforms and did well haven’t got a theatre screening.
What's better than zero? Well, anything. The same holds true for the box-office collections as well. What was zero for the last seven months has inched up a bit, with around Rs 10 lakh coming in with theatres reopening in some parts of the country from October 15. It was a Thursday, so a slow start but more theatres, read multiplexes, were ready to screen movies from Friday. Though not much but Rs 10 lakh is a start for a segment battered by the coronavirus outbreak.
So, which are the films that saw a “wider” release? Ajay Devgn's Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, Ayushmann Khurranna's Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan and Taapsee Pannu's Thappad. Some cinemas also showcased Akshay Kumar's Mission Mangal, Ranveer Singh's Simmba and Sushant Singh Rajput's Kedarnath. Even ensemble affairs Malang and Section 375 were screened.
It was expected that Khaali Peeli would release as well and that would have possibly collected around Rs 10 lakh had it arrived. However, distribution and exhibition issues resulted in the film not making it to the theatres instead regional language films (Sardaar Ji 1 & 2) and Hollywood flicks (My Spy, John Wick: Chapter 3–Parabellum) got a showing.
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One wonders if the situation could have been better had some big-ticket films like Baaghi 3, which was running when lockdown shuttered cinemas, and War, the biggest blockbuster of 2019, made it to the theatres. After all, the action does sell well and also warrants a big-screen experience.
Films like Dil Bechara, Gunjan Saxena-The Kargil Girl and Shakuntala Devi that were released on OTT platforms and did well could have been a good bet for the big screen as well. However, their straight-to-OTT arrival meant that one couldn't have expected theatres to accommodate these films now.
To bring back viewers, theatres have slashed ticket prices. With tickets available for just Rs 100 at the PVR chain, it could well be a steal for movie buffs.
SVF, a theatre chain in West Bengal, which runs its operations in the interior areas of the state, has priced tickets at just Rs 11. It is offering a suite of films including Chhichhore and Mission Mangal along with a bouquet of Bengali movies.
For now, it is wait-and-watch, as viewers are wary and want to hear from others before stepping into a cinema hall. For theatres, too, this is an experimental run as they get first-hand experience of the audience's behaviour and get familiar with the drill for the “new normal” before the crowds start to build.
Some, however, seem to be ready to take the plunge. While a string of Bengali films has been announced to coincide with the Durga Puja, which gets underway October 22, Hindi film Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari is set for a Diwali release. Starring Manoj Bajpayee, Diljit Dosanjh and Fatima Sana Shaikh, the Abhishek Sharma directed film would be released on November 13. There is also talk of Nikkhil Advani production Indoo Ki Jawaani, which has Kiara Advani in the lead, getting a Diwali release but an official announcement is awaited.
Laxmmi Bomb would have made for a good Diwali release, as it is yet to arrive on OTT platforms but the contract says it will stay exclusively with Disney + Hotstar. We will have to wait for 2021 to watch Akshay Kumar on the big screen when Sooryavanshi releases.
Nonetheless, a start has been made. As long as the audience keeps trickling in and there is no unforeseen event, it will be worthwhile to keep the ball rolling.(Joginder Tuteja is a trade expert and film critic. Views are personal)