Poor cinema occupancy sign of ailing Hindi film industry?

Quite ironically, it’s been Hollywood releases that have sustained cinema houses in Mumbai this year, writes VINOD MIRANI

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What has happened to Hindi film production? Where are the new films awaiting release? There is not much screen occupancy to write home about since January this year. We have had one film, Pathaan, and another, The Kerala Story, besides Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar, that were on the positive side.


  • The advent of the Multiplexes gave rise to the phenomenon of ‘blanket bombing’ of films
  • Yet now, after COVID, filmmakers fear lack of public interest and low footfall in cinemas
  • Hollywood releases are filling in the financial gap, with releases dubbed in Indian Languages

The old days of theatre release, vs modern multiplexes

The industry churned out as many as 180 to 200 films a year not long ago and all of them for theatrical releases. There were no video, online platforms or telefilms in those days. Even two top-draw stars did not mind their films releasing simultaneously and, usually, both did very well.

An undeclared understanding would be arrived at when two major films avoided clashing. Yet, there was rarely an occasion when a film enjoyed a solo release. The norm was one major film and anywhere between one to three or more other films per week. If the big film drew full houses, the other films benefited with what was called the overflow of that big film.

Believe it or not, both films Sholay and Jai Santoshi Maa released on the same day in 1975, and went on to become hits (Source: IMDB)

All films got equal playtime and, as a result, a small film stood as much a chance to score big as the major film of the week. The biggest example is that of Sholay and Jai Santoshi Maa, both released on the same Friday — August 15, 1975. (There are more, surely!)

Then, there was also the thing about lucky cinemas, and the preferred cinema of a filmmaker. This referred to the ‘main cinema’ – a film used to be released at a prominent cinema in the main residential-cum-commercial area of a major city such as Mumbai or Delhi. These areas usually had a cluster of cinemas.

Manoj Kumar‘s favourite cinema in Mumbai for example,) was the Opera House — conveniently close to a local railway station as well as on bus routes. What was more, it was a smaller house with a seating capacity of just about 600 — a number that allowed easy reach of the ‘jubilee’ mark, ie, Silver Jubilee (25 weeks) or Golden Jubilee (50 weeks).

The other favourite was the Roxy, also in the same area, about 1,500 feet from the Opera House. Shakti Samanta was another regular filmmaker who preferred one of these two screens. And these producers did not mind waiting for months for the cinemas to be available!

Things changed dramatically after the arrival of multiplex properties. A film’s release became like blanket bombing. Not to spare any screen in a city!

The change in the movie business after COVID-19

The pre- and post-Covid 19 era have changed movie economics like never before in the history of India cinema. Hit or flop, there are no films for release, and the few that released since the lockdown was lifted, could not pull the crowds, no matter who the star was or the face value of the film.

Yes, the supply of films has dwindled in the last two years. The makers of the few films that are ready and awaiting release seem reluctant to announce a release date. They are probably scared of the inevitable — lack of public interest, and low footfall.

Since January this year, we have had numerous small films every week. But no footfall. The uncertain flow of films is taking a toll on cinema houses. Even the vacation period — April-end to mid-June — has gone waste.

In April this year, we had Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, which struggled to cross the Rs 100-crore box-office mark. The only saviour so far has been The Kerala Story in May. Hopes now rest on the three June releases —Zara Hatke Zara Bachkke (Vicky Kaushal and Sara Ali Khan; June 2); Adipurush (Prabhas and Kriti Sanon; June 16); Satyaprem Ki Katha (Katik Aaryan and Kiara Advani; June 30).

What has helped the cinemas sustain are Hollywood hits such as Ant Man And The Wasp, John Wick: Chapter 4, Evil Dead Rise, Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 3 and Fast X.

Puss In Boots, Shazam: The Fury Of Gods, The Super Mario Bros and The Pope’s Exorcist have contributed to some extent.

There’s not much promise in days to come either. From July till year-end, there is just one film slated for release per month.

At this rate, our cinema houses will starve of content. For them, Hollywood films provide the breathing space. Hollywood films are generally doing well all over India with dubbed versions available and also because of better awareness, thanks to the reach of the media and Internet.

Considering that Hollywood is on the franchise trail, these films stand even better prospects in India as they do everywhere else. The year has quite a promising line-up from Hollywood. In the next two months Hollywood films will dominate the playtime with Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts (June 9); Elemental (June 16); The Flash (June 16); Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30); Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One (July 14); Barbie (July 21); Oppenheimer (July 21); The Marvels (July 28).

They will help the multiplexes survive.

Hollywood films, however, are no good when it comes to many single-screen cinema houses. They do not have the 2K projection facility, the least required to screen Hollywood films.

It is a miracle that the cinema properties are still standing and in business.

Read More: 16 films and series not to miss in June 2023

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