Along with capacity expansion, content will be key in reviving the COVID-19 pandemic-hit cinema business.
Delhi, one of the key movie markets, has allowed theatres to reopen at 50 percent capacity and this has given confidence to exhibitors to restart business which for many months has remained shut.
Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Limited, said since Delhi occupies a significant part of the Hindi speaking belt in the country along with the adjoining states, it will give strong signals and confidence to the Bollywood film industry to announce their new releases.
"Also, Delhi being a metropolitan city, the acceptance of Hollywood movies is more as there is a big content pipeline of these movies whose producers have already announced their dates," he added.
For PVR, Delhi is a strategic and important market as cumulatively with other northern states it plays it’s part to the overall contribution of 31 percent of its screen presence in North which is next only to South, added Dutta.
Multiplex chain INOX is resuming operations at select cinemas on July 30. Another theatre chain Cinepolis will reopen in Hyderabad this week. In addition, Cinepolis will be reopening in few other locations in early August.
Unlike last year, the reopening this time is sooner for cinemas. In 2020, cinemas had to shut shop in March and were allowed to reopen on October 15. And even then many theatres had not reopened because of dearth of content.
This time there are many films ready for release in theatres which solves the issue of lack of content for theatres.
An official of a top-multiplex chain pointed out that last time exhibitors had to wait for more than a month for new movies. As for this time, there are many Hollywood ventures including Mortal Combat, F9, Conjuring: The Devil made me Do it, A Quiet Place 2, Black Widow.
He said that the first Hindi film is likely to come as soon as second week of August.
Akshay Kumar-starrer Bell Bottom which was scheduled to release on July 27 is likely to release on August 18.
In addition, other multiple large Hindi films slated for release include Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi which is likely to release on October 2, Prithviraj on October 4, Ranveer Singh's 83 may release either on October/November 5, Jayeshbhai Jordaar could release on December 6.
Karan Taurani, senior VP, Elara Capital noted that in the current situation, two factors work favorably.
"Overseas markets have made a strong comeback, and exhibitors will largely agree to a distributor share of 55-57 percent first week or move to a share arrangement basis collection threshold (higher distributor share if the film achieves a higher collection of Rs 50 crore or more and vice versa or have a differential arrangement with select studios basis size and scale of film temporarily," he said.
In fact, the official quoted above added, "Some studios are ready to release films without Mumbai reopening."
Adding to this, Taurani said, "Bell Bottom will release in cinemas even if Maharashtra does not open up. Although, there is a likelihood of Maharashtra being allowed around second week of August for opening."
He said that release of Bell Bottom is good as it will be the first large Hindi film to hit cinemas and provide initial response of the consumer and also pave way for other producers to release their films in coming months.
It is expected that Bell Bottom is likely to do box office collection of Rs 60-75 crore but that is including Maharashtra. Without Maharashtra, the collection numbers could fall by 20 percent.
In terms of overall box office collections of a Hindi film, Maharashtra contributes around 30 percent.
This is why Rahul Puri, MD, Mukta A2 Cinemas, a cinema chain by Mukta Arts, a company founded by veteran filmmaker Subhash Ghai, said that Maharashtra is key for theatres.
He said that while it is a boost in the sense that another major market (Delhi) is open, sadly it will not make a huge difference for Hindi films.
"Bigger Hindi films will not release until Mumbai and Maharashtra give similar orders. Delhi's business is significant, depending on the film it could be about 20-30 percent of domestic for a Hindi movie but Mumbai is still the big piece," he said.