By Sugandha Rawal
New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Films are being delayed, stars are skipping multi-city tours, there are appeals to postpone big franchises and tours are being rescheduled. These are some of the coronavirus scare effects, with the deadly virus fast turning into a potential threat for showbiz the world over.
With the global film industry facing losses of over $5 billion, will the coronavirus scare have a trickle-down effect on India as well, particularly Bollywood?
The anxiety around the outbreak is growing with people deciding to stay away from places of large public gathering. This makes cinema halls and live show arenas a natural target. In India, does it signal a slump for the entertainment industry?
Bollywood has decided to wait and watch on stalling release of films, although our stars are significantly cancelling multi-city promotional tours.
“It is not a very aggravated situation in India right now, but people are getting the jitters. I am sure it will be controlled soon. If it spreads further, it will affect collections and cinemas. I think at the moment distributors and producers must be thinking of insuring their films. If we talk about moviegoing, I think the effect is coming in gradually because people will have reservations about going out,” trade analyst Rajesh Thadani told IANS.
Globally so far, a total of 90,893 cases of COVID-19 infections and 3,110 deaths, mostly in China, have been reported. In India, at least 25 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported till Wednesday.
Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor’s “Baaghi 3” is slated to hit the theatres on March 6, and its box office performance will give a glimpse of how the moviegoing audience is reacting to the outbreak in India.
The season is crucial for Bollywood after all, with several biggies lined up. The fear of coronavirus could ruin box office takings of Irrfan Khan’s “Angrezi Medium” (March 13), Akshay Kumar’s “Sooryavanshi” (March 24), Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor’s “Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar” (March 20) and the Ranveer Singh-starrer “83” (April 10).
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”, “Roohi Afzana”, “Ludo” and “Chehre” are also lined up in the first half.
Bollywood might be waiting to understand the impact of the virus outbreak on its business, but stars are not taking a chance. Many have been skipping travel to multiple cities for promotion of their films — a reason why the “Baaghi 3” team and the “Angrezi Medium” cast probably skipped coming to Delhi.
“There is nothing to panic as of now. People are vigilant because no one wants to take risk. Having said that, I don’t think as of now it is on the level where the entertainment industry will be effected. It is little to far for anyone to get scared thinking about its effect on the entertainment industry. It has impacted internationally and scared away people across the globe,” trade expert Girish Johar told IANS.
“There are big blockbusters slated for release in the upcoming months and we are hopeful that the situation will improve over a course of time, allowing consumers to visit their favourite cinemas. At this point all our focus is on taking preventive measures and offering a clean and disinfected environment,” said Devang Sampat, CEO at Cinepolis India.
Cinema halls insist they are working towards giving audiences a safe environment.
Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at Delite Cinema, told IANS: “There is no impact at the moment but if it spreads then it will have an impact. We are taking precautionary measures to ensure safety.”
“We are on an alert and keeping a close watch on the situation. Routine facility management protocol ensures all our cinema premises are up to appropriate hygiene standards. We are working promptly towards creating ample awareness amongst our teams with regards to the symptoms and precautionary measures to deal with coronavirus,” read an official statement by INOX.
According to hollywoodreporter.com, analysts believe COVID-19 could already result in a loss of at least $5 billion from diminished box office revenue and impacted production. It has started having an impact on moviegoing wordlwide, particularly in China, South Korea, Italy and even Japan.
Earlier this week, James Bond fans came together to urge the makers to delay the release of the upcoming film of the franchise, “No Time To Die”. It is scheduled to release in April. Disney is also likely to delay the release of its live-action “Mulan” remake in China.
Along with Bond, “Black Widow”, “Wonder Woman”, “F9: The Fast Saga” and “Top Gun: Maverick” are the most speculated films coming from Hollywood in the first half of 2020.
Box office slowdown can mean more profit for streaming platforms, and it will be interesting to witness how they seize the moment.
At a time Hollywood is taking serious note of coronavirus and a shadow of doubt having fallen on major sporting events such as Tokyo Olympics and Euro football, even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have declared they will stay away from Holi Milan parties. Bollywood, it seems, is yet to understand the gravity of the situation.
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at email@example.com)