MUMBAI: After barely recovering from the two month long Hindi film strike in the first half of the year wherein they lost substantial revenues, the film exhibition sector comprising multiplexes and single screens, will yet again face the music as the swine flu scare spreads across India.
While UTV Motion Pictures, which will be releasing its movie Kaminey this Friday, have secured themselves via insurance in the light of the scare that has led to the closure of theaters in Mumbai and Pune; multiplexes have no such back up plan. Hence UTV will be compensated for the loss of box office revenues over the two days of closure.
However, due to scare among the public of the virus, chances are that even when theaters open their doors after the stipulated three days closure, audience is not likely to throng to theaters or for that matter any place with a large crowd. In such a scenario, the brunt will eventually be borne by the film exhibition sector, which stands to lose out on its weekend box office collections even when two relatively big films are slated to hit theaters and that too on a long weekend.
The Maharashtra government passed an order that multiplexes and theaters in Mumbai should remain closed for three days starting 13 August. Moreover, Pune theatres are have been shut for the past couple of days. This means that movies will lose out opening weekend revenues to the tune of 20 – 25 per cent from Mumbai and Pune, which are key markets for Hindi films. While the opening weekend collections contribute the highest revenues for a film, with the Janmashtami and Independence Day holiday falling over the weekend, this could have been one of the best in terms of box office collections. Along with Kaminey, Studio 18’s Life Partner is also scheduled to release, whereas Love Aaj Kal is running steady in its third week now.
Occupancies have dropped drastically over the last few days at multiplexes. An evening show of Love Aaj Kal had to be cancelled today in Goa due to lack of audience at a multiplex there. Moreover, in Mumbai too, theaters have seen drastic drop in occupancies ranging from a mere 5 – 15 per cent due to the flu.
On the Bombay Stock Exchange, multiplex stocks were in the red following the news of closure on Wednesday. PVR was down 7 per cent and closed at Rs 111, Inox Leisure was down 3.22 per cent at Rs 51.05, Cinemax was down 2.81 per cent at Rs 51.95, whereas Fame India declined 1.80 per cent at Rs 19.10.
First it was the terror attacks in Mumbai, then the Hindi film industry strike and now the flu… In the long run, if the exhibition sector continues to suffer casualties, the going will get tougher for the film industry as a whole.