As social distancing and self-isolation has become social norm, Bollywood’s impact is calamitous

Lockdown has posed a serious uncertainty as the world has come to a standstill due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

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The coronavirus pandemic has upended the content pipeline, halting film production and closing cinemas.
Bollywood impacted due to Lockdown. Image Source: Financial Express.com

Lockdown has posed a serious uncertainty as the world has come to a standstill due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Nobody knows when the film shoots will resume because even after the lockdown is lifted, it does not look like Covid-19 will be contained.

Movies are a massive value creator. Global box office revenues totalled $42 billion last year – an all-time high – contributing almost one-third of the estimated $136 billion in the value of worldwide movie production and distribution.

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the content pipeline, halting film production and closing cinemas. Normality should resume; production has restarted in some countries and the industry has adopted remote-work protocols where possible. But the virus creates uncertainty, and the biggest short-term risk seems to be consumers’ dwindling confidence in physical venues.

Due to the social distancing, most of the big releases had to be postponed. Be it film, TV and web series shootings all have come to a halt. Theatres are not able to screen movies hence the impact has been most with the daily wage employees. The daily wage employees are struggling to meet their ends. The Rs 183 billion Indian film industry is going through its worst phase because of the lockdown necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Cine and TV Artistes’ Association (CINTAA) recently appealed to Bollywood A-listers to make donations and help daily wage workers. Rohit Shetty, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Ekta Kapoor and Vidya Balan were among those who came forward to provide funds and ration.

While the impact of the lockdown on the industry is still being evaluated, however it cannot be denied that slim production and related fields have suffered in India over the past month. In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, cinemas have closed, release dates have been postponed, film festivals have been cancelled and production has come to a halt. Closer to home, the media consulting firm Ormax predicts an impact of 15-20 percent on the tentpole Bollywood films. Trade analyst Atul Mohan predicts that the Bollywood industry is likely to undergo a weekly loss of $10.5 million.

A lot many films have been postponed during this tenure on account of social distancing. Films like Sir, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, Haathi Mere Sathi and 83 have got postponed. Baaghi 3 saw fewer takers in its second week, and Irrfan Khan’s Angrezi Medium had to be pulled out of theatres. It eventually released on OTT platform Disney+Hotstar. Similarly, a lot of big-ticket releases in regional languages have also been delayed.

The regional film industry has also been impacted in a huge way.  However, analysts have not yet been able to put a number to the losses. It is a known fact that the regional numbers will be huge and the impact will last at least a year. Most of the people in the film industry are of the view that after the lockdown, the big-ticket films are expected to do business with 25 percent loss even before release. The largest impact that can be perceived is that there will be no theatrical release of small budget movies for a long time.

The immediate impact has been cataclysmic, but concern is also growing over the future of film. The coronavirus pandemic has upended the content pipeline, halting film production and closing cinemas. Due to social distancing norms a lot of movies have come to a halt. But the question is that as social distancing and self-isolation become the new norm, can a business built around a communal experience survive?

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