For theatres in India, December 4 will be a big day, thanks to the release of Christopher Nolan's Tenet. It’s the first big movie release after theatres opened, post the COVID-induced lockdown.
While the buzz around the film is strong, it may not be strong enough to attract audiences to watch the film in single-screen cinemas.
Is Tenet a big opportunity for single screens as for multiplexes?
“Christopher Nolan's movies are cerebral in nature. While they often involve action and science fiction, it is not the kind of action that's popular in single screens. As a result, his films get almost all their business or around 85 percent from multiplexes, with the top six metros contributing to a big share of that," said Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media, a media consulting firm.
"Single screens contribute up to 25-30 percent box office of big Bollywood films in the superhero (Avengers) and horror (Conjuring) genres. But more story-led films like Nolan's have traditionally underperformed in single screens," he said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor/director, Saroj Screens, a chain of single-screen cinemas, said: "While Tenet is a tentpole film, it won't have that big an audience attraction like Avengers or any Marvel film, Mission Impossible or other films belonging to the action genre, which works well for Hollywood ventures running in single cinemas."
He added that despite being allowed to reopen, many single-screen theatres have not reopened due to programming issues.
Even Kapoor noted that “at this point, many single screens are closed, and I'm not sure how many of them will re-open with Tenet."
Indian analysts betting big on Tenet
Tenet had rolled out in international markets in a phased manner since August 26. Since its release in around 40 international markets, Indian analysts have been betting big on the film's release in India.
Analyst Karan Taurani, Vice President, Elara Capital, had said that Tenet will be a big release in India as the film will set the stage for big Bollywood releases like Sooryavanshi and 83.
While Tenet is seeing good traction as advance bookings for the film is looking strong, single screens won't be benefitting much out of it, in terms of box-office numbers.
According to a report by Box Office India, a Bollywood news portal, advance booking of Tenet is better than Bollywood releases like Ajay Devgn's Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior and Tiger Shroff-starrer Baaghi 3.
Advance booking for the film started from November 28, and around 25,000 tickets were sold in two days. Compare this with the advance booking for Tanhaji. During the first weekend, it was around 20,000. Hence, Tenet is seeing strong traction. However, much of the benefit will go to multiplexes like PVR and INOX.
Yet, Rathi thinks the film is important for them.
Better than re-runs
"Tenet as well Wonder Woman (the film is likely to be released in the second half of December) are stepping stones to reach normalcy as they are fresh content and are better than re-runs. While Tenet is a major attraction for multiplexes, even 10 percent coming from single-screen properties is a significant contribution."
Film and trade business analyst, Girish Johar pointed out another aspect. "Since Tenet is dubbed in regional languages (Tenet is releasing in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu), I think top single screens at the regional level will be vying to play the film as Tenet is definitely going to change the gear of audiences coming into cinemas."
He said that South India is a very large market after Mumbai for big Hollywood releases. "Also, if you see the footfalls in theatres down South currently, there have been houseful shows in the Diwali period. So, I think down South will be a big contributor for Tenet."
Rathi thinks Tamil Nadu is a major market for Tenet.
Dimple Kapadia a highlight
But he said that for Tenet to work in single screens, major marketing by Warner Bros, the company that has produced the film, is needed. He added that "actress Dimple Kapadia has starred in the movie and that is a point that can be highlighted."
According to Kapoor, the dubbed versions of Tenet are likely to contribute well in Tamil, Telugu and some Hindi markets where the COVID situation is under control (for example, Uttar Pradesh).
Yet, he thinks that the contribution will be less than 20 percent to the film's total business.
While Tenet may not bring big business for single-screen cinemas, Hollywood ventures this year will be more important than ever. This is because after Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) will be releasing in India.
Johar thinks that large single-screen cinemas will benefit from the release of WW84. The film will be releasing in India on December 25.
While Hollywood ventures like Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 have come to the rescue of single-screen cinemas in times of COVID-19, big Bollywood releases like Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi and Ranveer Singh-starrer 83 will be the game changers for single-screen exhibitors.