By Vinod Mirani
The Covid-19 shutdown has come as a totally unexpected blow for the entertainment industry as a whole, and the film industry in particular. There have been cinema shutdowns earlier but those were usually voluntary and planned, as protest against some government high-handedness or unreasonable taxes and such.
All sectors will suffer including exhibition trade, studios and the television and OTT platforms, not to mention actors not used to sitting idle. The film industry-related associations have decided to suspend all shooting activities starting March 19. So, there will be no new content.
For the film industry, it is a totally loss-making situation. The others, television and OTT, can still manage — television with reruns and OTT with the content pool they already have. In fact, OTT may remain the only alternative available to those seeking a pastime.
What works against the cinema? It is a place of gathering, hence a complete no-no under the circumstances because coronavirus mandates no personal contact. The cinemas will continue to bear fixed costs like salaries to staff and property-related costs, even as all their revenue generating will dry out. There will be no box office collections and, hence, no canteen and parking revenues. Add to this the advertising and auxiliary income from sources like ticket booking portals.
Although the closure of all activities related to entertainment have been put on hold till March 31 as of now, there is no certainty that work may resume after that. The way things stand, there are possibilities of further extension of the shutdown.
As a follow-up, all production offices as well as studios have closed down. Major production houses like Yash Raj Films , Dharma Productions, Nadiadwala, Viacom and others have also closed their offices. All corporate houses in film business have declared a closure of all their offices all over.
According to Brijesh Tandon, a prominent cinema chain holder from Delhi, while not all cinemas he controls have closed down, they are doing so gradually, because footfalls are limited. Also, how long can they keep screening the same feature week after week, as no new films are in the offing?
At this stage, it is not possible to put a finger on the losses the industry will incur.
As for the revenue loss at the box office, Atul Mohan, editor of the trade magazine, Complete Cinema, estimates it to be over Rs 100-125 crore per week.
It is rather ironical that the working class has all the time in the world with nothing to do and nowhere to go!