Indian entertainment industry stares at losses due to coronavirus effect

With theatres in parts of the country under lockdown, shootings stalled and promotional events and interviews on hold due to the spread of coronavirus, the television and film industries are facing huge losses, say experts.

Following in the footsteps of Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi, Karnataka and Mumbai on Friday closed malls, gyms and cinema halls to contain the virus that has been declared a pandemic by the WHO.

It is hard to quantify exactly how much money is at stake but theatres in Delhi alone may incur a loss of Rs 2 lakh to 10 lakh in the coming 10 days without earning a single penny, said film distributor Joginder Mahajan, who is also the general secretary of the Motion Pictures Association in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

“Delhi has about 150 screens, which will stay closed till March 31 as directed by the government. Everybody is facing losses because even if you don’t run the theatre you have to pay salaries and electricity bills.

“A theatre shutdown like this is unprecedented though there have been strikes in the past. Cinema halls were also closed for three-four days in 1984 during the riots. It is hard to estimate the losses now but there are many indirect expenses,” he said.

According to trade pundits, a big Bollywood movie spends anywhere between Rs 15-20 crore on its promotion and a medium or small budget movie somewhere around Rs 5 crore.

Akshay Kumar-starrer “Sooryavanshi”, which recently launched its trailer with much fanfare, has pushed the release of the film indefinitely. And “Angrezi Medium”, starring Irrfan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Radhika Madaan and Deepak Dobriyal, is braving the panic around the virus spread by going ahead with its release.

Tillotama Shome’s film “Sir” has been postponed. The release of Hollywood movies “A Quiet Place 2” as well as Disney’s “Mulan” and “The New Mutants” has also been pushed.

Films already in theatres have seen a drastic decline in viewership and the film that has suffered the most is Tiger Shroff’s “Baaghi 3”.

“At least 40 to 50 per cent of the business will be affected but maybe more. In Delhi, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir cinemas are shut. Big films are postponed. ‘Baaghi 3’ saw a 10 per cent loss, ‘Angrezi Medium’ has released and by tonight there will be clarity on the business but we are not sure people will turn up in theatres,” Mumbai-based film distributor Rajesh Thadani told PTI.

The drop in footfalls has been drastic, according to Nitin Dattar, president of Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India. The association has cinema houses in Maharashtra, Goa and parts of Karnataka and Gujarat under it.

“This is first of its kind situation where the government has asked cinema houses to be closed. Footfalls have reduced in the last one week though it is difficult to gauge the number at this point. The current occupancy rate in single screen theatre with 1,000 seats is just 8 to 10 per cent,” he said.

The Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPPA) has said it will hold a meeting with people working on movie sets to make them aware about precautions to avoid virus spread.

“Workers on the sets of the movies and TV shows are an essential part of the industry. They must be educated,” IMPPA president T P Agarwal told PTI.

In Mumbai, major events that were cancelled on Friday included a Hotstar press conference related to the launch of Disney Plus in India and the interviews for a web series.

The National Centre for the Performing Arts also announced that they were cancelling all scheduled programmes in their theatres till March 31.

B N Tiwari, president of Federation of Western India Cine Employees, said they will gauge the situation in a meeting on Friday with other film and television bodies.

“If schools and colleges can be shut, then shoots can also be stopped, the life of people is at risk. It is essential to remain alert. It is the responsibility of the producers to maintain proper hygiene on the sets. We have informed that everyone should be given masks and there should be santisers and soaps,” Tiwari told PTI.

Mumbai-based exhibitor Akshay Rathi, who has cinema houses in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, said the exhibitors will feel the heat if cinema houses are shut down.

“The films are being pushed, like if ‘Sooryavanshi’ is releasing in July, it will earn in the second quarter. There will be no revenue but the expenses will be there like salaries of workers, maintenance, etc. Once the big films release, Hindi and Hollywood both, they will earn money.

“What need to be gauged is the overall economical impact the lockdown will have on the economy and the livelihood of people and businesses across the country,” Rathi said.

The number of novel coronavirus cases on Friday rose to 81, which include 16 Italians and one Canadian, according to health officials.

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