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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

RRR to Prithviraj: Amid rising Covid-19 cases, future uncertain for film releases

Amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, states are clamping restrictions including closing down theatres. With big ticket films like RRR, Radhe Shyam and Prithviraj in the pipeline for January, what does it foretell for the business?

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
Updated: December 31, 2021 6:14:19 pm
radhe shyam prithviraj rrr releases coronavirusSeveral mega budget films are lined up for a January 2022 release.

The pandemic has impacted the economy across sectors. Even as the entertainment industry remains hard-hit, it was slowly gathering tempo as theatres gradually opened after the second lockdown ended. While digital space reached newer heights in the last two years, the charm of 70mm cannot be replaced. So when Akshay Kumar-Rohit Shetty Sooryavanshi released recently, audience was quick to return to the big screen experience. And just when things started looking bright with films like Pushpa: The Rise and Spider-Man: No Way Home earning big bucks, the fear of Omicron variant and rising Covid-19 cases have again put the industry on tenterhooks.

The Delhi government on Tuesday ordered a Yellow Alert, wherein cinema halls, spas, and gyms will be shut to contain the rising cases of Covid-19 in the national capital. This left the multiplex owners in lurch, who have written to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal with a request to allow the operation of theatres with proper guidelines and protocols, and reconsider the new rules. On December 30, members of the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) met Deputy CM of Delhi, Manish Sisodia with the concern. The Producers Guild Of India also backed MAI’s appeal to the Delhi government.

Akshay Kumar Sooryavanshi had a big share in pulling back the audience to cinema halls. (Photo: Dharma Productions)

In its letter, MAI reiterated that the Delhi government’s decision caused “massive uncertainty” and could lead to “irreparable damage” to the film industry. It sought “equal treatment” with other industries, to introduce the double vaccination requirement to enter cinemas like in Maharashtra and resort to a 50 per cent capacity for seating.

Shahid Kapoor-starrer Jersey, which was scheduled for a theatrical release on December 31, was postponed. The makers are yet to announce a new release date. In fact Ranveer Singh’s 83, which received an astounding response from critics and audience alike upon its arrival on Christmas weekend, December 24, got severely hit due to decreasing footfall post its opening weekend. Its dipping box office numbers became inversely proportional with the rising cases of Covid-19 across Delhi.

83 film team cast Director Kabir Khan’s 83 suffered due to the rising cases of Covid-19 in Delhi-NCR. (Photo: Instagram/Saqib Saleem)

Trade analyst Girish Johar told indianexpress.com that the Omicron fear became a major factor for the dismal performance of 83 at the ticketing counters. “Omicron and the strict restrictions played a spoilsport for 83,” he shared, adding that shutting of cinema halls once again will immensely impact the sector. “The film industry had just started to get back on its feet, and once again it has suffered a blow. With Delhi closing cinema halls, the future once again looks bleak,” he added.

Filmmaker Karan Johar, whose projects Jug Jugg Jeeyo, Brahmastra, Liger, Yodha and Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani are currently under production, also expressed concern. On Wednesday, he tweeted, “We urge the Delhi Government to allow cinemas to operate. Cinemas are equipped with better ability to ensure a hygienic environment while maintaining social distancing norms as compared to other out-of-home settings. @LtGovDelhi @ArvindKejriwal @OfficeOfDyCM #cinemasaresafe.”

It’s deja vu for filmmakers, who had been waiting for more than a year to release their big-ticket films. Now, January is expected to open our 2022 movie calendar with a bang with some big ticket theatrical releases. These include RRR (January 7) and Radhe Shyam (January 14). But with Delhi already shutting down cinema halls, and Mumbai putting a cap of 50 per cent occupancy, more producers and distributors might announce postponement of their projects. Even if they manage to release, a major chunk of business is sure to suffer losses.

RRR (January 7, 2022)

With a power-packed cast including Ram Charan, Junior NTR, Alia Bhatt, Olivia Morris, Ajay Devgn and Shriya Saran, director SS Rajamouli’s magnum opus is one of the most awaited films. A pan India film, RRR needs to fire from all engines to recoup its budget and expectations.

Valimai January 13, 2022)

Ajith Kumar brings an adrenaline-rushing actioner in his second collaboration with Boney Kapoor after Nerkonda Paarvai. Valimai also stars Huma Qureshi, Karthikeya, Bani, Sumithra, Achyunth Kumar, Yogi Babu and others.

Radhe Shyam (January 14, 2022)

A romantic drama starring Prabhas, Pooja Hegde, Krishnam Raju and Bhagyasree, this Radha Krishna Kumar film is a multilingual.

Prithviraj (January 21, 2022)

Akshay Kumar, Sanjay Dutt, Sonu Sood, Manushi Chhillar and Sakshi Tanwar historical is directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi. Akshay plays the role of King Prithviraj Chauhan while Miss World Manushi makes her acting debut as Sanyogita.

Attack (January 28, 2022)

John Abraham makes Independence Day weekend his own as he again saves India against impossible odds. Also starring Jacqueline Fernandez and Rakul Preet Singh, it is directed by Lakshya Raj Anand.

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