With no BIG movie releasing during the summer vacation, do exhibitors have a strategy to survive the drought?
Summer is the season of fun! It’s vacation time and people are in the mood for wholesome entertainment, not to mention that it’s family time too.
April-May is considered a strong season to release films, holding out much promise for everyone in the value chain.
During the last few years, we’ve seen some big films do colossal business at the box office in these months. Last year alone we had Baahubali: The Conclusion (April 27, 2017), a sleeper hit like Hindi Medium (May 19, 2017) and a commercial film like Half Girlfriend (May 19, 2017). The year before that, a masala movie like Baaghi (April 29, 2016) became the crowd favourite, and in 2015, the super hit status of Tanu Weds Manu Returns (May 22, 2015) said it all.
This year, it’s different. Navigating the calendar to secure the best and most lucrative release dates seems to be getting increasingly tougher for filmmakers. Two big-ticket movies – Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika and Rajinikanth’s 2.0 – were slated to hit the marquee in April but technical reasons have forced the makers to postpone their release. As a result, exhibitors are looking at one of the most lucrative seasons of the year without any crowd-pullers. Sure, there’s the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer 102 Not Out, Varun Dhawan-starrer October and Alia Bhatt’s Raazi but these are niche movies, at best.
How do exhibitors and distributors plan to survive the lack of big, commercial content and losses incurred due to IPL season? Do they have a strategy in place to deal with this bleak season? Or will they rely on Hollywood movies to ride out the summer? Here is what distributors and exhibitors have to say:
TINKU SINGH, GROUP PRESIDENT & CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER, SRS GROUP
Getting the right date to release a movie plays an important role for producers. To gain maximum profit for any big-ticket movie, it is important to have a perfect release date, which includes either holidays or festivals, as they get maximum screens in cinemas and great footfalls. But the summer vacation this year has no big movie releasing. Even those that were on the cards, like Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika and Rajinikanth’s 2.0 slated to come out in April, have been rescheduled due to technical reasons.
Releasing movies in the summer vacation is beneficial for producers, exhibitors and distributors. To compensate for the loss, SRS Cinemas is planning to promote the release of animated movies like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The Incredibles 2, which are scheduled to release in June. This would help us attract the attention of kids and their parents.
ARUN MEHRA, DISTRIBUTOR
There are some Hollywood biggies like Avengers: Infinity War releasing around this time. Earlier, Spiderman had released during the summer vacation. But this time, even that is not happening. It is unfortunate but there is nothing distributors and exhibitors can do about it.
What else can we do? The IPL doesn’t matter anymore. It did impact the box office when it started years ago as it was a novelty but no longer. If a film is good and big enough, it will make a profit and do good business. Now, people are not much concerned about the matches any more, maybe only the final matches.
DEVANG SAMPAT, EXHIBITOR, CINEPOLIS
As a distributor, I have observed that movies that release during summer and holidays globally do well. Also, there is a well-defined season for big releases overseas but not in India. In our country, every weekend is a season! Whether long weekends or festival times like Eid, Diwali, Christmas, public holidays like Independence Day and Republic Day… all these occasions have been taken over by the big stars and their films.
However, since the Indian audience is maturing, content-driven films are beginning to do well, and word-of-mouth is sometimes as powerful as are active promotions. Movies like Raid and October may not see large collections during the weekend but if the content is good, the audience will come to cinemas to watch them. Such is the power of word-of-mouth, and it worked so well with movies like Piku and Pink, even though one might call them ‘niche movies’.
JASPAL DHINGRA, DISTRIBUTOR
I don’t think there will be a problem surviving. We have Baaghi 2 releasing on March 30. So, technically, it will hit cinemas from April 1. And this is a commercial film. Tiger Shroff is popular and the buzz around the movie is good. Its songs that have released, are also getting popular. There is enough hype around the film as well as its actors.
Among the other movies releasing, there’s October starring Varun Dhawan. Yes, it is a niche movie, a hatke movie, like Badlapur was. But I think it will find an audience among the college-going crowd. It is a perfect picture for them; they will be able to connect with an emotional subject like that.
There are Hollywood movies releasing as well. There is Avengers and the Deadpool sequel. These movies will definitely bring in the audience. Then there is Irrfan’s Blackmail. This may be a niche film but it looks like a good film. So, I wouldn’t say that tough times are ahead.
BHUVANESH MENDIRATTA, AVP OPERATIONS, MIRAJ CINEMAS
The financial year will start with Baaghi 2, which has generated quite a buzz. Then there is Parmanu, Nanu Ki Jaanu and Blackmail. In mid-April, we have Varun Dhawan’s October releasing. The subject of the film makes it look like a small film but it stars Dhawan, who has a huge fan following. April does not look bleak, although May does look a tad forlorn for exhibitors as there is no big Hindi movie releasing during that month.
But then, Hollywood and regional movies will compensate for that. We may not have a Baahubali: The Conclusion during the holiday season but, when you look at the entire year, 2018 is more weighty than last year was. This year, we have two Salman Khan movies releasing. We also have movies from Aamir Khan as well as Shah Rukh Khan. Hrithik Roshan and Ranbir Kapoor also have releases this year. So, the content line-up for the rest of the year is great.
Traditionally, it is the last quarter of the financial year that yields gains but we are starting this financial year with a good first quarter, with Salman Khan’s Race 3. So, although May seems dull, as I said earlier, Hollywood and regional movies will cover for it.
BALKRISHNA SHROFF, DISTRIBUTOR
Typically, the summer holidays extend from mid-April to mid-June. This is also the best time to release movies that cater to the entire family. Parents can watch movies with their children, while niche films may not be suited for viewing as a family. Content-rich, niche films thus release outside this period. As far as the IPL goes, it doesn’t really impact the movie-going audience.
RAVI MACHHAR, DISTRIBUTOR
Distributors incur a profit or loss only if and when they release a film but it is a worrisome time for exhibitors. There may be another reason big films will not be releasing during the summer holidays this year. Every year, Ramzan is observed 15 days earlier than the previous year, and this year, it falls in June. This could be one reason to defer the release of the big films.
While Marathi films could compensate for the lack of big releases in summer, lately, Marathi movies have not been doing very well at the box office. Therefore, exhibitors may be able to keep all their auditoriums open on weekends but they will have to close some of them on weekdays, to bring down costs.
The big, commercial movies are rarely affected by the IPL matches but the tournament could impact niche films. October and Raazi are not commercial films. Raid too is a niche film. Sure, it features Ajay Devgn, and the reports of the movie are positive and it will take a good initial opening, but it is no Golmaal Again!!! And, granted, a movie like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety clicked, even though it was a small film but for multiplexes, there’s no escaping the fact that the next few months are going to be difficult.
RAJESH THADANI, DISTRIBUTOR
There is no special strategy for the summer months, except the hope that niche films releasing in the next few months will work. Sometimes, a niche film does better business than a big movie, so everyone just prays that the content of these films is good and they work.
Exhibitors will obviously feel the pinch of not having big commercial releases but Hollywood movies and regional content will kind of compensate for the lack of big-ticket releases. Producers feel that the IPL may play spoilsport, especially around the beginning of the season and towards the end, during the semi-finals and final matches. Hence, they avoid releasing movies during that time.
ASHUTOSH AGARWAL, PROGRAMMER, STAR WORLD
At Star World Cinemas, we have equipped our auditoriums with 2K projection and there is a good line-up of Hollywood content this summer like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Avengers: Infinity War, etc. In addition, due to Padmaavat shifting its
date earlier this year, and now 2.0 postponing its release from April, the release slate is all mixed up. But we are anticipating a good number of mid-size films like Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety to release, which should do decent business. So, we are not apprehensive of the holiday season.
In addition, there is so much cricket to feed off during the year that we believe the IPL will not pose a challenge to watching films in cinemas, provided their content is good. It is only the beginning and last leg of the IPL that will pose a bit of a problem. Together with Hollywood and Bollywood content, we will achieve our targets in the summer.
DEBASHISH DEY, DISTRIBUTOR
April and May 2018 is a lean period for the film industry except for three relatively big movies – October, 102 Not Out and Raazi – and there is no strategy as such to survive this lean phase. Exhibitors, in particular, will have a tough time as they cannot shut their cinemas even if they run out of programming. They will have to either depend on regional movies; some of them plan to show the IPL matches on their screens; or screen earlier releases that they had not screened in their cinemas, to fill in the gaps. Some exhibitors might run Hollywood flicks but that option is not open to everyone because these movies come in 2K formats and not all cinemas are equipped to screen them. Some exhibitors may also plan to renovate their cinemas during this lull period.
VINAY CHOWKSEY, DISTRIBUTOR
Exhibitors do not have a choice and will have to screen whatever comes their way. If they cannot afford that, they will have to screen older films, which will at least help cover costs. They could also opt to screen some regional films. In Gujarat, they could screen some Gujarati films; and in Mumbai, they could screen some Marathi films, just to keep going. The IPL might affect business as well, especially the important matches.
ANKIT KAPOOR, HEAD OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS, MOVIE TIME CINEMAS
For almost a decade, Bollywood superstars, mainly the Khans, have come to an understanding of releasing their films on different festivals/long weekends. This ensures their hold over the holiday season and that their films do well at the box office. Release dates play an important role when it comes to evaluating the success and failure of any movie.
A producer has to take full advantage of the initial performance of the film at the box office, and for that, it has become necessary to release a film during the holiday period or a festival so that they get maximum footfalls, maximum screens and undivided attention of the audience. It is surprising that there are no big-budget Bollywood movies releasing during the upcoming summer holidays. For producers, this is a lost opportunity.
At Movie Time, we are planning to screen some super hit movies of late Sridevi like Chandni and Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. Also, movies that will be releasing this summer would be the Kareena Kapoor-starrer Veere Di Wedding and the Salman Khan-starrer Race 3.
JEETU KHANDELWAL, DISTRIBUTOR
With regard to big, commercial movies, Baaghi 2 is releasing on March 30, although it would have been better if it released mid-April. But, it doesn’t matter as it will continue its run in April. It is indeed unfortunate that 2.0 is not releasing in April as it would have been really good for business.
Of the movies releasing during the summer months, none of them is a hardcore, commercial movie. They will largely run in multiplexes. The only other movie that could have an audience beyond multiplexes is Parmanu as it is an action movie. October too is interesting but it is a niche film. The vacation does not boast any movies that children can watch with their families.
Children are crazy about heroes who are super-fit and well-built, which was not how it was a few years ago. And there is Baaghi 2, which caters to this craze. Besides this movie, there is no other movie that has the ability to take on the box office. The other releases will find favour with the multiplex audience.
I also released six to seven movies recently, and only Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety delivered good collections. Raid is also not a commercial film. Even Hichki is not releasing in all screens. Now, our only hope is Avengers: Infinity War. I do not have much hope from any of the releases lined up but things should look up around Ramzan.
AJAY BAGDAI, EXHIBITOR-DISTRIBUTOR
With a couple of movies being postponed, there is not much we can do. This year, the previous quarters have also not been great at the box office and we hope that, at least, the small movies do well and help cover our costs. Even though there is Varun Dhawan’s October and Amitabh Bachchan’s 102 Not Out, these are niche movies. Most producers are making niche movies that cater to multiplexes and not single screens. And, of all the masala movies that release, only eight to ten have widespread releases; the rest cater mainly to city
audiences, A and B sectors and some selected properties. These do well only in select pockets and a few cinemas.
SUNIL BANSAL, DISTRIBUTOR
Distributors and exhibitors depend on the films released by producers. Distributors and exhibitors do not create content. So, all they can do is be patient and wait for the right film to release. We are going through a slack period. We are releasing Raid, Baaghi 2, and thanks to these movies, it won’t be all that bad for us even if it will not be as good as it used to be.
I believe in the old saying, ‘survival of the fittest’. One has to make do with whatever one has to survive. In recent years, IPL matches have not been affecting the box office, except for the quarter-final, semi-final and final matches. And it only affects business in cities whose teams are playing.
DEBASHISH SENGUPTA, PRIYA CINEMAS
Here, in Bengal, we are experiencing a commercial crisis because the movies running right now are not for the masses. Raid, which is releasing this week, is not for everyone, especially the masses. I am not looking down on the film or the quality of the film in terms of content but this film will not find an audience in remote villages of Bengal. It is a good movie but it is a niche film. It might do well in selected places like Kolkata, Barrackpore or the outskirts of Kolkata.
With regard to the IPL, the tournament is not a matter of concern for producers or exhibitors any more. If a movie is good, the IPL matches will not affect the business of the film. When a film doesn’t do well, its producers usually use the IPL as an excuse to say that it competed for the audience’s attention. If people want to watch a film, they will watch it.
AMIT AWASTHI, DISTRIBUTOR
Last year saw a lot of big films releasing during the IPL season and all of them did good business. In terms of business, the films that are set to release during the summer vacation this year may not do as well as films that released during the same period in earlier years. This is because most of these films are multiplex films.
For the last few years, we have seen big films releasing around the June window. They were very successful. But, this time, it looks like single screen owners will face many challenges during the summer vacation due to the type of films releasing at this time. These films will do well at multiplexes because they have good artistes and directors and their stories are different too.
KALAPI NAGADA, DISTRIBUTOR-PRODUCER
It is a drought period, especially in times when exhibitors expect packed houses to meet their average occupancy. This is a real concern during the entire year, except on festival days, when films run to full houses. Distributors must aggressively plan the release of regional movies, offbeat films, animation movies and small films, which cannot release during competitive times like festival holidays and long weekends. It gives good films an opportunity to enhance their reach and make monetary gains. The audience also gets a wider choice of movies. This strategy plays a positive role for producers, distributors, exhibitors and eventually the audience. Hence, it is always said that entertainment, along with the food industry, never dies.
SATADEEP SAHA, SSR CINEMAS PVT LTD
It will be difficult for single-screen exhibitors to survive without commercial content as most of the movies releasing in April and May are for multiplexes and niche audiences. But, we are hoping that Shoojit Sarkar’s October may provide exhibitors at least some oxygen as the trailer looks very promising. We also have Rajinikanth’s Kaala, which may be good for single screens. When movies don’t release, we can only wait and watch.
PREM LAKHANI, OWNER, RAJHANS CINEMA
We have no strategy in place to counter the drought of films. Usually, this is a great time to release a film as families have time and like to watch commercial films. But this time, there is no such movie releasing. It is unfortunate that 2.0 got postponed because it would have helped us start the financial year really well.
There are two reasons for the way things are currently. One is the constant shuffling of films that started last year with Padmaavat. So many movies got postponed. We suffered huge losses with Padmaavat itself because our territory is Gujarat and since the film didn’t release here, we lost business worth Rs 30 crore, which means we lost about Rs 3 crore in income.
On top of that, there are not many commercial films being made. Filmmakers prefer to make small-budget dramas for the urban audience which bring easy returns. But the real revenue is earned by big, commercial movies, especially in times like the summer vacation, which we will miss out on this time. Now, our only hope is a sleeper hit to cover us at the beginning of this financial year. But, from the looks of the line-up for the next two months, that seems highly unlikely.
Byline: Bhakti Mehta, Surjana Biswas.