Coronavirus: Film industry braces for financial loss, crowded release calender

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With theatres closed, shootings on hold and the release of major films pushed indefinitely, Bollywood is reeling under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, say industry insiders, pegging the losses at anything between Rs 300 crore to Rs 800 crore.

While trade analyst Taran Adarsh said losses at the moment could be "Rs 500 crore to Rs 800 crore", another insider said on the condition of anonymity that the industry could lose about Rs 350 crore in the first quarter of the calendar year.

Others were more chary about putting a figure but agreed this was a crisis for the Hindi film industry.

"This the worst time, not just for the film industry but for everyone. As far as the industry is concerned, business is getting hampered. It's too early to put any number as we don't know when the situation will be normal," T Series head Bhushan Kumar told PTI.

The producer, who most recently backed "Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan", said there will be a reshuffle in the release calendar once the threat subsides.

"We will shift our films because we have to give way to earlier releases. There are no correct answers. The way the cases are rising, the shutdown might go on till April 15," he added.

Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra, best known for his films "Chameli" and "Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi", said he has seen a crisis such as this for the first time in his 35-year movie career.

"Entertainment is vulnerable as people work in groups and revenues depend on people coming to watch your work. Films that were up for release are affected, so are the ones that are on the floor. It's a crisis.

"Everybody is saying it will last till March 31. How do we know when it will finally end and when things will become normal? Maybe we are in for the long haul. The losses are huge. We can survive for six months but daily wage workers are going to suffer a lot. We all should help each other," Mishra said.

The Producers Guild of India has set up a relief fund for daily wage workers, prompted by a suggestion from Mishra, Vikramaditya Motwane, Anurag Kashyap and Anubhav Sinha.

In film distributor Rajesh Thadani's view, the first quarter of 2020 has been the "worst" in terms of business.

"It'll take a while to become normal. The impact will be huge on the second quarter as well. Right now, the shutdown is for 15 days but if the cases go up cinema houses won't open up. The loss is of Rs 400-500 crore for the films that were supposed to release in the first quarter," he added.

According to Adarsh, people might not turn up even if theatres reopen in the first or second week of April.

"Entertainment is the last thing on anyone's mind right now. It is a wait-and-watch situation. In the second quarter, there will be a lot of competition, as multiple films will come up and the Bollywood calendar will be chaotic. At the moment, there is a loss of Rs 500 crore to 800 crore with shooting schedules being affected and films getting pushed," Adarsh said.

An industry insider said the shutdown of theatres will impact the three quarters of the year, with the first quarter, a big earning phase in the industry, the worst hit.

"The loss of 'Baaghi 3' is Rs 30 crore and 'Angrezi Medium' is about Rs 25 crore to 30 crore. 'Sooryavanshi', which has been postponed, has also compounded the quarter one loss. Overall, the first quarter losses could be around Rs 350 crore. Films such as 'Street Dancer 3D', 'Love Aaj Kal', 'Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan' also did not do that well.

If the situation continues in April and theatres stay closed, the losses will reflect in quarters two or three, he added.

"Films will either clash or release within a short gap of one or two weeks. The last quarter of the year may escape the impact," the insider said.

The big films this year are "Sooryavanshi", which has been postponed indefinitely, "Radhe", "Laxmmi Bomb", "Coolie No 1" and "Mumbai Saga". The final quarter of the year has releases such as "Brahmastra" and "Laal Singh Chaddha".

Film exhibitor Akshay Rathi said the industry has faced bad quarters in the past as well like in 2017 but with no income during the shutdown and expenses piling up, things don't look good.

"The exhibitors will be at a loss as there is no income but expenses will continue. Consumption is low on everything. A new Bollywood calendar needs to be chalked out. If releases are planned properly, especially with tentpole movies, it will help as these are the movies that will revive the fortune of the film industry," Rathi said.

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