In the last two years, film studios have gone through many changes when it comes to movie production. While COVID restrictions continue, studios are geared up for the coming year with a strong lineup of movie content.
Zee Studios, the content vertical for Zee Entertainment has plans to offer around 40 films next year.
Focusing on regional content, Shariq Patel, CEO - ZEE Studios said that the studio will be offering content across languages.
2022 content lineup
"We are releasing movies in Kannada, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu. There are about five to six movies in each of these languages and there are about 10-12 Hindi movies to release in the upcoming year," said Patel.
Sony Pictures Films India that recently released Spider-Man No Way Home in India has plans to bring to the Indian market more Hollywood content.
"Sony has been extremely focused on creating content that resonates theatrically. We have got content that is largely suited for cinemas which include Hollywood pipeline like Morbius, another Marvel character from Spider-Man universe, Uncharted starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg then we have Bullet Train featuring Brad Pitt," said Vivek Krishnani, Managing Director, Sony Pictures Films India.
Krishnani added that amid local films, they will be offering Hindi films like Major starring Mahesh Babu, Aankh Micholi, Saale Aashiq which is the directorial debut of Siddharth and Garima who were the writers for projects like Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat. Then there is the survival drama Dive which is a co-production with Ram Madhvani who is the creator of the web series Aarya. And the company will also offer another Hindi venture called Tera Kya Hoga Lovely which tackles colour bias in India, featuring Randeep Hooda and Ileana D'Cruz.
Another studio Yoodlee Films is also betting on regional content.
"We have developed a bullish stance on regional content and are aggressively building a slate of films in Marathi, Punjabi and Malayalam, as well as continuing our work in Hindi films and expanding into series," said Siddharth Anand Kumar, Vice President - Films, Saregama India.
"Our first Marathi film, Zombivli, which is Marathi cinema's first zombie horror-comedy is all set to hit cinemas on February 4, 2022. We are also venturing into Punjabi cinema and making a drama/ comedy with the superstar Amarinder Gill. Our Malayalam film, Padavettu will be hitting the theaters sometime in 2022," said Kumar.
Taking a shot at series
He added that next year they will also release their first web series, Invisible Woman, starring Suniel Shetty and Esha Gupta.
Even Zee Studios' Patel said that they will be producing series for ZEE5 and other (streaming) platforms. "You will also see series coming out of Zee Studios in the coming year," he added.
Along with the series, Zee Studios will be releasing five to six movies on digital platforms next year. "As a studio, theatrical is our focus but that does not mean we will not be doing direct-to-digital. This calendar year we will end up doing almost 20 movies across theatrical and direct to digital releases."
One of the major changes film studios witnessed in the last two years was the release strategy due to the shutdown of theatres because of coronavirus-induced lockdown. Many film studios have been releasing movies directly on streaming platforms.
"While we are focused on theatrical releases, we don't believe in holding on to inventory. The lockdown situation had confused all and no one knew how things are going to play out. So, the best-case scenario was direct to digital release which benefitted all. We made money on those (direct-to-digital) releases which we had released on other (streaming) platform or ZEE5," said Patel.
Like direct-to-digital releases, many changes that film shooting witnessed due to coronavirus outbreak have now become the new normal for movie production.
Following COVID protocols
Movie studios have been shooting films with a skeletal crew, kept cast and crew in bio bubble during film shoots, conducted regular screenings and testing, among others which film studios continue to do even now.
"Crews are a little tighter, focus on sanitization on sets continues," said Patel.
But he said that budgets that were impacted due to limitations on shooting work because of COVID-19 are back to what they were in pre-COVID times."The cost structure is back to what it was in pre-COVID times. The added budget is minimal. Hence, the additional cost due to COVID safety protocols is not impacting the film budgets much," said Patel.