As the average cinegoer continues to be pressed for change, the box office bears the brunt. Film trade pundits explain.
The month of November promised an interesting line-up of films for moviegoers. After Rock On 2, big budget films such as Force 2 and Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Dear Zindagi are set to hit the marquee. Smaller films such as Tum Bin 2 and Moh Maya Money are among other films that are looking for a window opening this month. A small budget horror film Saansein, which was to release last week has been postponed to a later date. Demonetisation has made many plans go awry.
Rock On 2 opened to dismal openings last week, three days after the government’s overnight decision to flush out Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from circulation. The film, made on a budget of Rs 45 crores, managed to collect a meagre Rs 4.5 crores over the weekend. It didn’t help that the critics panned the film too. The poor collection however hasn’t deterred films such as Tum Bin 2 and Force 2 that are slated for release this Friday. The makers of these films are keeping their game face on, even as theatre owners and film trade analysts note that the cash crunch will impact the box office collection severely for the next few weeks.
Manoj Desai, executive director of Gaiety Galaxy rues, “We had hardly any openings this weekend to watch Rock On 2. People obviously don’t want to indulge in a movie at a time when there is no money in circulation.”
Having said that, delaying the release date for Force 2 isn’t an option for director Abhinay Deo. A future release date would mean clashing with films like Dear Zindagi and Kahaani 2, which won’t help matters. The Force 2 team is now focussing their energies on collaborating innovatively with digital services like PayTM and BookmyShow, so that people don’t have to bother about hard cash. Calling it a chance to support the government’s decision, Abhinay says, “We had a long meeting and decided to stick to the original release date. However, we hope that after ten days of demonetisation, people would like to take some respite from all the trouble.”
It is now a common sight to witness serpentine queues at ATMs and banks instead of a multiplex. While digital services like e-wallets have been offering enough reasons for people to step out of their homes, splurging for a day out isn’t enticing enough for the average moviegoer. Trade analyst Kumar Mohan asks, “Even if people purchase the tickets online, do they have adequate change to travel? So while the elite can step out for a film, the masses prefer staying at home. I see only about 10 to 20 per cent occupancy in theatres right now. This will continue for a few weeks till there is enough money in the market.”
By the time the demonetisations announcement was made, Rock On 2 had already spent a massive amount on its countrywide tours. The team was left with no option but to release their film. The risk didn’t seem to work in their favour. Film distributor Rajesh Thadani explains, “If Rock On 2 waited any longer to release the film, they would have had to shell out more cash to market their film. It’s easier for smaller budget films to take that kind of a risk.”
Film trade analyst Amod Mehra says that Rock On 2’s dismal collection at the box office should discourage filmmakers from releasing their films any time soon. The trade analyst worries that the next couple of films might witness an opening of about 15 per cent. He says, “There is no solution at hand other than delaying the film’s release.” In a lighter vein he adds, that this time frame is a good period to release bad films. “Demonetisation has become a good reason for filmmakers to release films with weak content and then blame it on the country’s current issue,” he jokes.
—With inputs from Somudra Banerjee and Aarti Bhanushali