Uncertainty on release of new films after average collections of Bell Bottom, Chehre, threat of third wave of Covid-19

Uncertainty on release of new films after average collections of Bell Bottom, Chehre, threat of third wave of Covid-19

New Delhi, September 2, 2021

With the Akshay Kumar-starrer Bell Bottom and the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Chehre netting average earnings at the box office amid the continuing delay in reopening of theatres in Maharashtra and the looming threat of a possible third wave of Covid-19, uncertainty prevails on the release of new films in cinema halls.

Bell Bottom, the first big starrer to release in theatres post pandemic and touted in trade circles as a film that would draw audiences back to the cinemas after a prolonged period of shutdown of theatres due to Covid, earned around Rs 21 crore worldwide in its opening weekend, far below the expectations of the film trade.

The other big release in August, Chehre, recorded below average footfalls in theatres. The film earned Rs 2.25 crore in its opening weekend.

The less than expected box office earnings for the films in India is attributed to the closure of cinema halls in Maharashtra, which is a big market for Hindi films, and the fact that theatres across India are currently operating at just 50 per cent occupancy.

Despite a reopening of theatres across India, cinema halls in Maharashtra continue to be shut due to the rise in cases of the Delta variant of Covid and the looming threat of a third wave of the pandemic.

Moreover, cinema halls across the country are currently operating at 50 per cent occupancy due to the continuing threat posed by the coronavirus disease.

In this situation, filmmakers in Bollywood have been cautious over announcing release of their films in the coming months, either releasing their films on the digital platforms or waiting for an opportune period for releasing their films in the theatres.

In what seems to be a case of "once bitten, twice shy", filmmakers are fearing a repeat of the scenario in February-March this year when a sharp dip in Covid-19 cases in the country led several of them to announce release dates of their films from April onwards, in anticipation of a revival of the process of return of audiences to the theatres. However, a sharp jump in the Covid-19 cases from March put a question mark on the release of most of these films.

Following the dip in cases in January, makers of Roohi, Mumbai Saga and Sania had announced release of the films in March. Following the lead of these films, several film production houses announced their line-up of releases for the coming months.

However, a sharp jump in the cases of Covid-19 beginning from late March led to makers of several films like Haathi Mere Saathi, Bunty Aur Babli2, Chehre, Sooryavanshi and Satyamev Jayate 2 postponing the release of these films till a later date.

The Covid situation adversely impacted the earnings of the films released in theatres during the period, including Roohi, Mumbai Saga, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar and Saina.

Amid the uncertainty on reopening of theatres, the last few months saw many of the filmmakers releasing their films directly on OTT.

Among the films that released on the digital screen were the Farhan Akhtar-starrer Toofan, Karan Johar’s production Shershah, the Ajay Devgn-starrer Bhuj The Pride of India, the Parineeti Chopra-starrer The Girl on the Train, the Manoj Bajpayee- and Prachi Desai-starrer Silence Can You Hear it and the Shilpa Shetty-starrer Hungama 2.

Salman Khan’s Radhe also witnessed a multi-platform release.

After the average box office numbers for Bell Bottom and Chehre, which are the first two big budget ventures to release in cinemas after the reopening of cinema halls post the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, not many filmmakers are willing to risk a release in theatres in the coming months.

Apart from Bell Bottom and Chehre, the only films scheduled for release in cinemas in the coming weeks are the Faisal Khan-directed Factory and the Kangana Ranaut-starrer Thalaivi, the biopic on the life of late Tamil Naidu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The coming weeks will also witness the release of Hollywood films Fast and the Furious 9 and Shang Chi.

While Faisal Khan's Factory, which marks his directorial debut, does not have much buzz around it, Thalaivi is a multilingual film which is targeted primarily at the market in South India.

Thalaivi will hit theatres on September 10.

The rest of the film makers seem to be playing a wait-and-watch approach, preferring to schedule release of their films in December or next year.

For example, the makers of big budget ventures RRR and KGF have announced a release date of the films in April next year amid the uncertainty on reopening of theatres in Maharashtra. The Akshay Kumar-starrer Bachchan Pandey is scheduled for release on Republic Day next year.

The Aamir Khan-Kareena Kapoor-starrer Laal Singh Chaddha is scheduled for release on Christmas while Tadap, the Bollywood debut of Suneil Shetty's son Ahan Shetty, is scheduled for release on December 3.

Makers of other big starrers like Sooryavanshi, Haathi Mere Saathi, Bunty Aur Babli 2, Maidaan, Bhool Bhulaiya 2, Jersey , Heropanti 2 and 83 are yet to announce release dates of their films, perhaps waiting for the situation to get clear, especially with regard to opening of theatres in Maharashtra.

Amid this uncertainly, the coming months will see the release of many films on OTT.

Makers of the horror comedy Bhoot Police had in July announced release of the film on Disney Hotstar on September 17. The coming months could also witness the release of another film Dhamaka, starring Kartik Aaryan in the lead, on the digital screen.


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