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COVID-19: Epidemic to hit Delhi box office hard

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By Sugandha Rawal

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) Irrfan Khan won’t be arriving at the big screens in Delhi with “Angrezi Medium”, neither will Akshay Kumar’s latest biggie “Sooryavanshi”. “Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar” featuring Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor will be affected, too. The impact of restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the Capital will be felt at the box office as Delhi cinemas will be shut till March 31.

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With the Delhi government officially announcing all cinema halls, schools, colleges in Delhi will be shut until March 31 due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the film trade in the city is bound to feel the impact. After the postponement of “Sooryavanshi”, massive shuffle of release dates is expected.

“It is going to put a full stop to the forthcoming releases. Delhi is a huge market. If you look at the business of two releases — ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ and ‘Thappad’, they were fantastic in Delhi and NCR. Even otherwise, Delhi-NCR is a huge market,” trade analyst Taran Adarsh told IANS.

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“The losses will be worth crores. Why would you even want to release when you know that the film will not be released in Delhi? Delhi is a big territory. Producers will now pay attention and think about changing release dates,” he added.

The new announcement will ruin box office takings of Irrfan’s “Angrezi Medium” (scheduled for March 13) and Parineeti Chopra-Arjun Kapoor’s “Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar” (March 20).

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“The producers will strongly think to delay the release. I think they will have to defer releases,” trade expert Girish Johar told IANS.

According to Johar, shutting down of theatres in Delhi will have a “huge impact to potential revenue”.

“Delhi is a very important market. It is one of the topmost cities among revenue earners for Bollywood films across the country. In some cases, Delhi is the number one city among all regions, and sometimes Mumbai is the number one city. Delhi is one of the topmost crucial markets. If Delhi is shutting down theatres, it will have a huge impact on Bollywood’s potential revenue,” Johar told IANS.

“We also need to keep in mind that overseas, too, we are losing a major chunk right now, with the US under a lockdown, parts of Europe and Australia also under lockdown. All these are big potential markets. Now, Delhi cinemas will also be closed. It will be a big loss,” he added.

The fate of the Ranveer Singh-starrer “83” (April 10) is also undecided. Other big films slated in the first quarter include the Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer “Gulabo Sitabo”, Varun Dhawan-Sara Ali Khan’s “Coolie No.1”, Salman Khan’s action drama “Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai”, Akshay Kumar’s “Laxmmi Bomb”, “Bunty Aur Babli 2” and Kangana Ranaut’s “Thalaivi”.

“Haathi Mere Saathi”, “Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl”, “Roohi Afzana”, “Ludo” and “Chehre” are also lined up in the first half.

Talking about the impact, Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at Delite Cinema, told IANS:””Around 10 to 12 films are doing good business in Delhi-NCR right now. Shutting down the halls will affect business of all these films. By a rough estimate, if halls are asked to shut down till the end of the month, it could even pile up a cumulative loss of around Rs 100 crore in this territory””

Sanjay Suri, who was set to bring the Oscar-nominated drama “Les Miserables” to India on March 13, hopes the situation improves soon.

“We shall wait for the situation to improve and see if a phase-wise release is possible or not when shutdown is lifted. Safety is most important,” Sanjay said in a statement.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians not to panic, but remain vigilant to keep the coronavirus outbreak at bay. “Say No to Panic, Say Yes to Precautions,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

Of the 73 coronavirus cases in India, 17 are foreigners.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)



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