“The films have been huge,” said Shubhra Gupta, film critic for the Indian Express newspaper. “There has been a great expectation from the public. It is a great loss.”
The pandemic likely cost the Indian film industry over $ 330 million in lost box office revenue and canceled production services, according to Komal Nahta, a film trade analyst and television host of “ETC Bollywood Business”.
While Bollywood films in the Hindi language dominate the industry, there are other important actors, including the Tollywood regional hub (Telugu language), along with films made in Marathi, Bhojpuri and Bengali.
Film producers in India don’t just want to please their Indian fans. Some of Bollywood’s biggest names, including Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone, help the industry earn revenue from audiences around the world.
For example, last year, the action thriller “War” grossed $ 13.7 million overseas, roughly a quarter of its total box office proceeds.
“With India, the problems are manifold because all cinemas around the world will have to open,” said commercial analyst Nahta. “Revenue overseas for major Hindi films forms a huge component of total revenue.”
But the coronavirus pandemic has completely overturned all plans to release films in the near future. In late March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an unprecedented three-week arrest for the 1.3 billion Indian people who have requested the closure of everything except essential services, including health services and grocery stores.
“We will see a cascading effect on films,” said film critic Gupta. “This will affect the entire list of films for this year.”
Even if cinemas reopen, they will continue to lose money if they are unable to cope with crowds, according to Nahta. He stressed that Chinese cinemas have sold movie tickets with the social distance rules in effect.
“If you sell tickets based on social distance, you reduce your capacity because for every seat you sell you keep one free,” he added. “If your capacity is 50%, it won’t support the film’s huge budgets.”
Bulk production teams
With film production pending, many in the industry have remained without much work to do.
Bollywood makeup artist Arti Nayar – who has worked for more than a decade with stars like Sonam Kapoor-Ahuja, Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt – said the projects and events that would otherwise have been involved in this spring have been indefinitely rejected at cause of the virus.
“The light kids, the people who take care of your food, we are all essentially day employees,” said Nayar. “So when a roll is canceled, it will hit us financially to plan your life based on what you earn.”
The Producers Guild of India (GUILD) has set up an assistance fund for those who pay every day as hairdressers, make-up artists and assistants who work within the technical departments.
Siddharth Roy Kapur, president of the GUILD, urged members of the film brotherhood to make a contribution in an attempt to “minimize the disruption of the life of our esteemed colleagues and collaborators in this difficult time”.
The GUILD also collaborated with the Council of Indian Film and Television Producers and the Federation of West Indian Film Employees to provide assistance to those most affected.
“The truth is, we won’t be working indefinitely,” said Nayar. “You can’t practice social estrangement, everyone works so closely.”
When it comes to making up for lost budgets, Nahta predicted that big names – both in front of and behind the camera – may have to pay a cut. He noted that the commissions for the best stars represent the highest part of the budget and are particularly likely to be targeted.
Meanwhile, Gupta has said he believes the pandemic will spark more conversations between production companies on the release dates, so that two great films are not released simultaneously and they mutually devour each other. He added that he believes that the industry could also see other changes.
“There will be more rationalization, cooperation, empathy and consideration of the sector’s long-term health,” said Gupta.
– Swati Gupta contributed to this report.
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