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The last two weeks at the cinemas have not been half as exciting as the film trade would have liked it to be. And there are several reasons for that. For one, people are wary of visiting the cinemas for fear of contracting the coronavirus. Secondly, the spending power at the disposal of the public is low, what with lakhs of people having lost their jobs due to the economic recession, and also because countless small and medium-sized businesses have shut down permanently. Another major cause for the low attendance at multiplexes and single-screen cinemas is the lack of fresh content. Since cinemas are running repeat-run films, audience attendance has been on the lower side. When repeat-run films do not attract the public to the cinemas in normal times, they could hardly be expected to prompt people to leave the safety of their homes and visit cinemas in the days of COVID-19.

Had cinemas screened the films which were premiered on streaming platforms during the lockdown, footfalls would’ve been better because there are lakhs of people who haven’t seen those films on the OTT platforms on which they are streaming. Besides, for the cinema platform, those films would have been fresh content. But while producers and distributors were hoping that multiplexes and single-screen cinemas would be ready to screen the OTT-premiered films, exhibitors were adamant that they wouldn’t.

Cinemas in Maharashtra were expected to reopen soon but the state government’s order yesterday (29th October) made it clear that the reopening of cinemas in the state will have to wait for some more time for fear of COVID cases spiking in the state. This has further aggravated the problem of the running cinemas because till cinemas all over India, and particularly in Maharashtra, don’t reopen, producers of new films will not dream of releasing them in the cinemas. Hence, it is now almost certain that the films which were being tipped to be the Diwali releases in cinemas will not hit the screens, at least not on Diwali.

From among the films ready for release, Sooryavanshi and 83, of course, are the biggies which could be expected to draw the crowds to the cinemas when they hit the screens. But those two films are slated for release in December this year (83) and January 2021 (Sooryavanshi). Of course, it is to be seen whether they are further postponed or not in view of the delay in the reopening of cinemas in the balance states like Maharashtra. Before that, Laxmii (earlier titled Laxmmi Bomb) seemed to be that magical film which could have prompted people to leave their homes and head to the cinemas. And why Laxmii? For one, it is the first star cast film which is now slated for an OTT premiere (on 9th November). The Diwali streaming release’s trailer has been loved by the trade, prompting it (trade) to think that it just may have done the trick had it released in cinemas alongside the streaming platform (Disney+ Hotstar). In fact, efforts were made to prevail upon the film’s producers (Fox, Akshay Kumar, Shabinaa Khan and Tusshar Kapoor) to release the Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani starrer in cinemas too on 9th November, but the deal with the OTT platform — for an exclusive OTT premiere — was difficult to change. No doubt, the streaming platform (Disney+ Hotstar) and the producers (Fox, which has been taken over by Disney) are the same party but issues can get complicated when big corporate houses are involved. Not just the trailer, even the Burj Khalifa song from the film is being loved by the audience — as much for its catchy tune as for its picturisation on excellent locations and its dance steps (of Akshay and Kiara). An entertaining trailer, a hit song… aren’t these the two most important requirements for a film to open well at the box-office? Had Laxmii opened in the cinemas in the Diwali week, it just might have brought back the crowds to the cinemas. But alas! that will not happen. Laxmii will premiere on the streaming platform and will bypass the cinema platform.


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