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Exhibitors will incur a weekly loss of about Rs90 crore, says trade analyst

Analyst Atul Mohan said that even after the crisis blows over, the public is likely to wait and watch for 15 days or so before going to the theatres again.

Keyur Seta

Following the rapid rise in coronavirus cases across India, governments in several states have ordered cinema owners to shut down and filmmakers have also applied the brakes on projects. This is expected to hit the business big time. 

Veteran trade analyst Atul Mohan believes that cinema owners will bear the brunt in this situation. “The exhibitors will be affected the most as films like Sooryavanshi and 83 have been postponed," he told Cinestaan.com. "There are no sales of tickets, snacks, advertising and parking, and no commission from [the ticket-booking website] BookMyShow as well. Plus their stocks will get affected.”

Atul Mohan also discussed the estimated loss theatres would face on a weekly basis. “Considering films of all languages, exhibitors will incur a loss of Rs80–90 crore every week," he said.

In recent times, big-budget films with big stars have avoided a clash at the box office. But things might change when the situation becomes normal. “Producers won’t think about the clash,” said Mohan. “They will have no qualms releasing their films whenever they get a chance. This is because they have their own calculations regarding their investment and daily losses.”

Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi was all set to be released on 24 March and Kabir Khan’s 83 on 10 April. Huge crowds were anticipated for both films, which will not happen now.

Even after the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic ends and new films open, things are not expected to become hunky-dory straightaway, he cautioned. “There will be people who will wait and watch for 15 or 20 days or a month before visiting theatres again," he said. "The fear in the minds of people will take some time to vanish.”

According to Mohan, the beginning of April will be crucial for the industry. “The month of March is almost gone. If the situation is evaluated and found to be under control next month, then it’s good. Otherwise, there will be more tension as they will have to wait for 15 days more,” he said.

With more and more people being encouraged to stay at home, it is obvious that OTT platforms will have a field day. “They have a big advantage right now. They should increase their marketing space now to attract more subscribers,” he added.

Manoj Desai, executive director of the G7 and Maratha Mandir theatres in Mumbai, said exhibitors have already been facing the problem of fewer crowds in recent times. With theatres being shut, they are staring at huge losses too.

“With theatres in Gujarat also shut, 60% of theatres across India are closed," he said. "And coronavirus is number one in Maharashtra. Right now, I am just protecting my staff. I will get the theatres cleaned up as much as possible.”

Desai believes the onset of summer is the only hope. “We can’t do anything in the face of nature," he said. "Things will improve if the spread of the virus stops. The rise in temperature should help as the virus spreads more during a cooler climate.” He also agreed with Atul Mohan that even after the theatres reopen, people would wait and watch for a few days.

Only recently, the Maharashtra government had allowed movie theatres to operate for 24 hours. Desai said this was not of much help. “When so few people turn up during the day, how many can we expect to come for late-night shows?” he said.

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