The impact of COVID-19 has led to big tentpoles fighting for space on the most crowded blockbuster season ever with a series of Indian cinematic behemoths set to lock horns at the box office this year.
The Eid holiday corridor is often the merriest time of the year at the box office. This year, the two biggest holiday tentpoles waiting to be unwrapped on May 13 are Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai and Satyamev Jayate 2, which will debut in cinemas amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Alia Bhatt-starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi will arrive in cinemas along with Prabhas’ highly-anticipated film Radhe Shyam on July 30.
Also clashing at the box office later this year are SS Rajamouli's pan-India project RRR and Ajay Devgn's Maidaan. Both the films are scheduled to hit the theatres during the Dusshera weekend. Additionally, Shahid Kapoor's Jersey and Kangana Ranaut’s Dhaakad are eyeing a Diwali release. But at a time when the film industry is already experiencing a massive disruption and an unprecedented slump in box office revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and cinemas are receiving low footfalls, is box office clash a good move in the direction on long road to recovery?
Film producer and trade analyst Girish Johar feels in the post COVID era the box office clashes should be avoided as everyone needs time and space to recover the lost ground. He, however, sees no issues in releasing of two films belonging to completely different genres on the same day.
“In the post COVID era, box office clashes should be avoided the most because everyone needs time, space and most importantly revenue to come back on their own feet. Ideally there should be no clashes, but there are certain holiday periods in which the window is such that two films can come together which has been proved umpteen times in the past as well. If it’s an extended weekend and the two films are different in terms of genre and size then why not. The more the better,” he said.
“All the big films which are lined up to clash at the box office will start releasing almost two months from now so the chances are the fear and paranoia around the Covid-19 may subside by then. We have already seen that down south with Master and Krack as the audience no longer wants to stay at home and only wants to enjoy the films in cinemas. Maybe at that time, the normalcy would return and the impact of Covid-19 might get diluted by then,” Johar added.
Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi believes that it’s about time the film industry should collectively come together and ensure that every movie gets maximum showcasing that it deserves and maximises the revenues for not just the producers but also for the exhibitors to the best extent possible.
“The last 10 months have not been good for producers or exhibitors, and now especially since these big tentpoles are due, it’s important for the entire industry to come together and work on them in a way that we monetise to the hilt and make sure that at least the films that are catering to same mindset, target audience and demographics are not cannibalising into each other’s business and are apart from each other by at least a week or two. An urban rom-com and an actioner coming together or a big ticket Hollywood film releasing with a film that focuses on single screen are fine.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, film trade analyst Atul Mohan said, “It’s not a good move in these testing times when we are already struggling to have the audience back in cinemas. We should not get into these battles of ego right now. What the industry needs is a proper spacing of all the big films so that each of them gets 3-4 weeks of run. The audience is already very skeptical about stepping in the theatres so we really don’t know how in days to come the audience is going to come back to cinemas and how the turn out is going to be. So, we really can’t afford to have box office clashes right now."
He continued, “In this pandemic, we have seen the closure of 1000-1500 cinema halls and single screens so that could also lead to shortage of screens to accommodate two big releases on same Friday. Also, when two big films clash and even both of them do well at the box office, they do cut each other’s 20-25 per cent box office earnings.”