The movie business will continue to have a tough time next year, especially in the initial three to four months.
"Shoots were halted for several months, and even now, have not started at the regular, pre-COVID levels. While several scripts may be ready, not too many films are ready to release, and this scenario will remain so for at least the next 3-4 months," said Shailesh Kapoor, Ormax Media, a media consulting firm.
And this is why he said that fewer releases are expected for the first half of 2021.
A recently released KPMG report estimates that the film business will be down by 67 percent in FY21 as revenues will be down from Rs 18,300 crore in FY 20 to Rs 6,100 crore in FY21.
For the film business, the major contribution comes from theatres. In 2019, as much as Rs 11,520 crore came from domestic theatrical revenues, and the OTT segment contributed Rs 1,900 to the overall film business.
However, many theatres have not reopened despite getting permission to reopen due to a lack of theatrical content.
So far, only one Bollywood film, Suraj Pe Mangal, has released in theatres after lockdown and the next film, Indoo Ki Jawani, starring Kiara Advani will be releasing on December 11. However, both the films are small ventures which are not enough for theatres to bring back audiences in large numbers.
"While content is available, theatrical content is missing. Small films are there but for people to come back to theatres, we need big films. Big films want pan-India opening but not all theatres have reopened and not all states have allowed theatres to reopen," said film and trade business analyst Girish Johar.
He added that a film going to an over-the-top (OTT) platform pushes back the recovery period of a cinema by at least two to three weeks. "In a month, two to three big films would release in theatres. Now, even those films have gone to OTT."
This is why Kapoor thinks that many theatres are likely to shut because of the dearth of content. "The single screens and some of the smaller, local multiplexes will struggle, as they won't have sufficient funds to last them through this extended period of no footfalls."
He added that there are multiple challenges ahead of the film industry. "While regional markets may find it easier to recover in states where COVID-19 is more in check, the Hindi film industry will find it tougher because it addresses wider geography. Even one or two key markets (for example, Delhi right now) being impacted by a COVID-19 wave can make the release of big-ticket films difficult."
Hence, Johar thinks that there are some aspects that the film industry needs to relook.
"If all formats have to survive, the release window has to be relooked. The eight-week window will now drastically come down for everyone to survive. Plus, the virtual print fees (VPF) charges that producers have to pay this too will undergo a change."
While the period between January and March will be tough, Kapoor thinks that the situation should begin to normalise from May-June onwards. But the concern is whether all theatres will be able to survive till then.