The deadly coronavirus outbreak has been declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation, with at least 73 confirmed cases in India and thousands of people being monitored for symptoms. With six cases being confirmed in Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has announced that theatres across the city will remain closed till March 31.
With two big-ticket Bollywood films – Homi Adajania’s Angrezi Medium and Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi – lined up for release in this period, the entertainment industry will feel the ramifications of the coronavirus outbreak.
Film critic and trade analyst Taran Adarsh says that producers and distributors will definitely take a hit, after this announcement. “This is shocking. This will definitely have repercussions in the entertainment industry. Delhi is a major city and a big contributor to the business of films. Films will not release, the producers will have to put a stop to it. How can someone let go of Delhi? We are talking about crores and crores,” he tells Hindustan Times. A rep of PVR cinemas said they are looking into the issue and will comment soon.
It looks like Angrezi Medium, starring Irrfan and Radhika Madan, could be the first casualty. The film is scheduled to hit the theatres this Friday, less than 24 hours from now. “I have no idea about Angrezi Medium, because it is scheduled to release tomorrow. The producers Maddock Films or Jio Studios will be able to tell you,” Adarsh says.
A source from Reliance Entertainment tells us that Sooryavanshi, which is slated for a March 24 release, will be pushed. “We will make an announcement very soon. We are already in talks,” the source reveals. Kabir Khan’s 83, which is due to be out on April 10, is also likely to be postponed.
Film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi says about Angrezi Medium, “Even if it does get postponed by a week or two weeks, we don’t know whether it will find another window like this one, where there is no other film releasing.”
Trade analyst Girish Johar tells Hindustan Times, “Delhi is a very important market in terms of the box office in India. It is one of the topmost cities in terms of revenue. If the chief minister has announced that theatres will remain closed, then producers will lose a major chunk of business.”
“Healthcare of people is extremely important, but having said that, to issue orders for a blanket shutdown of theatres across the country is not a solution. Delhi would affect the decision of a lot of other states, as well,” Rathi tells Hindustan Times. He adds that to tackle the coronavirus scare, the country needs a “surgical strike” and not a “nuclear explosion which can have more collateral damage”.
Rathi goes on to say, “Every producer owes funds to studios and very often, interest too. If a film is delayed by six months, there is also a cost that has to be factored in. It’s for every producer to analyse what impact a delay would have, compared to having a slightly fractured release. For a film like Sooryavanshi, the stakes are high, because it’s a big-budget film and there are takers for such films not just in big cities but in Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns, as well.”
Adarsh says that apart from Delhi, producers will feel the pinch in overseas markets as well. “Coronavirus is not just limited to Wuhan in China, it has spread far and wide. When you talk about affecting film business, we are not just looking at India but also overseas markets like US, UAE-GCC, Australia, UK and Southast Asia. These are huge markets for Indian films,” he says.