MUMBAI: The ongoing economic slowdown coupled with poor returns on few released movies is showing its dark light upon the future slate of Hindi films. The capital crunch is affecting producers and corporate companies in various ways. While some are finding it tough to release their forthcoming slate of films; few others are not able to put newer projects on the floor. The result is that, film studios are witnessing fewer bookings since many days now.
Some of the major studios where Hindi films are shot like Film City, Mehboob Studio, BIG ND Studios, Kamaalistan Studio, Filmistaan Studio, RK Studio and Filmalaya Studio have 30 per cent lesser bookings and drop in revenues now as compared to earlier.
Kamaalistan Studio manager Sunil Amin tells Businessofcinema.com that there have been no bookings for films since almost 20 days now. He says, "There has been a drop of 40% in the bookings as compared to last year, this is probably the effect of recession. Last year this time business was really good."
Filmistaan manager B.M Seksaria adds, "There has been no shoot since the last 20 – 25 days and we have seen a drop of almost 30 per cent in the last 20- 25 days. Comparatively our studios were all fully booked around this time last year."
One reason for fewer bookings at studios could be that, since it is expensive to construct sets, producers are opting for live locations as far as possible, which are cost effective. "In the last two years a handful of producers shot one film after another, but that is no longer the case. In ongoing times like these, only few successful producers like Karan Johar, Vipul Shah, Ronnie Screwvala, Vidhu Vinod Chopra to name a few are shooting their films and most others have slowed down," says an industry observer.
Chopra’s 3 Idiots, Johar’s My Name Is Khan, Shah’s Action Replay, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Jail and Screwvala’s What’s Your Rashee? are some of the films that are currently on floors at various studios in Mumbai. Moreover, some films like Venus’ De Dhana Dhan, Balki’s Paa amongst others are also being shot on foreign locations.
Film City has been getting regular booking and revenues but from television serials rather than films. At present 10 TV serials are being shot at Film City while only two studios have been booked for film shootings. Film City Manager Rathod says, "Since Film City is a government undertaking the 20 per cent drop in the bookings has not affected much."
However RK Studio has been luckier since they have signed a contract with Sony since the last two years for both their floors. RK Studio manager Kishore says, "The television show Indian Idol was being shot at RK and the show just got over but RK’s contract with Sony is not yet over."
Similarly, Filmalaya Studio had also signed a two year contract for one of their floors, Stage no. 1 with 9X, which unfortunately got discontinued in January 2009 and since then there have been no bookings. Sources inform Businessofcinema.com that 9X is yet to pay the studio its dues. Filmalaya’s other floor, Stage no. 2 was booked for a long period by Maverick Productions for a television show but they too called off their booking since the show was cancelled by the channel. However, Filmalaya managing director Toy Mukherjee is optimistic. He says, "It’s all part of the business. 2008 was a rocking year for us business wise even though that’s when the recession started. We knew such a situation would arise so we were prepared for it. Things will however pick up around June when the rains start because that’s the time shoots take place indoors."
According to Filmistaan’s Seksaria, the only reason why the studio has managed to sustain in these difficult times is because it was established way back in 1943, when the cost for setting up the studio was not so expensive and also because they have been getting bookings for ad films and a few serials on and off. He says, "Had the studio been built recently, we would not have been able to make ends meet."
Earlier studio floors were booked by the producers for a long stretch of time like six months to a year but today the bookings are for approximately a month to three months.
Mehboob Studio, which has seven shooting floors, has bookings for five everyday. Though out of these, maximum of the bookings are either for ad films or still shoots. Nonetheless, compared to the other studios there are more films being shot at Mehboob. The reason for this according to Mehboob Studio managing director Iqbal Khan is because the studio is centrally located at Bandra and it saves traveling time. Secondly and more importantly, the studio’s rates are comparatively reasonable. However, he also points out that there has been a drop in the number of bookings as compared to earlier, by around 30 per cent.
Though most of these studios have not cut their booking costs as yet, some like Kamalistaan are ready to negotiate. Filmalaya’s Mukherjee too is ready to cut his rates by 20 – 25 per cent in the present scenario. While the others are still mulling over the same.
So far, the Association of Motion Picture Studios have not met to discuss this problem but if need be they will decide to call a meeting.
With no resolution in sight as of now on the issue of revenue share between multiplexes and film producers, it remains to be seen whether there is a change in shooting plans of new film projects that have been announced.
(Picture Courtesy: www.future-studio.net, www.ndstudioindia.com)