The Telangana State Government has decided to implement night curfew till May 1, and the Andhra Pradesh government has imposed 50 per cent occupancy in film theatres to contain the spread of COVID-19 second wave. These decisions have been taken a week after several filmmakers voluntarily postponed their releases indefinitely. We talk to the trade and industry people to understand what the future holds for the already reeling industry.
Industry in dire-straits
The surge in second wave of COVID-19 cases is keeping people away from theatres. As a result, many cinema houses are proposing to close, prompting the release of several films to be postponed. Given these developments, the immediate future looks grim for Tollywood.
The Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce (TFCC) Vice President Mutyala Ramadas comments that the film industry is in dire-straits. He foresees a repeat of what happened last summer. “With most of the film shootings postponed, no immediate film releases and, and low occupancy, the industry is in dire straits. We are just waiting for things to improve,” says Ramadas, adding that the industry workers are suffering financially due to lack of work.
Why is the film industry being targeted?
When the government is giving permission to hold election rallies and religious gatherings like the Kumbh Mela, film bodies question the restrictions placed on the industry. Chairman of the Distributor Sector of Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce, Producer Abhishek Nama is critical about the night curfew.
“How does it help stop the spread of COVID-19, and how does it benefit the Government,” asks Abhishek.
Shooting schedules being recalibrated
The night curfews have prompted film makers to reschedule their shooting itinerary. Makers of Sarkaaru Vari Paata, Pushpa and others are now busy chalking out the revised schedules.
Producer Ravi Shankar, who is bankrolling Sarkaru Vari Paata and Pushpa, says they are planning to reschedule the itinerary of the Mahesh Babu and Allu Arjun-starrer. “Since we can’t shoot during the night in Telangana we have to either reschedule the scenes during mornings,” Ravi Shankar explains.
“Some actors are available during night because they are shooting for another film in the day. If we reschedule, it could result in a clash of dates” he adds.
Ticket pricing is key
After Sankranti, summer is the best season for film releases. But there is no clarity on how the situation is going to be in the next four weeks.
However, Uttarandhra distributor Chinni feels that if the existing ticket pricing issue in Andhra Pradesh is sorted out then exhibitors and distributors will be willing to screen films. He feels the 50 per cent occupancy issue is not a problem.
“Films like Tuck Jagadish and Love Story are not being released because of the low ticket pricing structure in Andhra Pradesh state. The revenues the producers get will be very low on such a low pricing structure on tickets for corporations, municipalities and panchayats,” he says, and points out that films like Krack and Uppena have registered impressive numbers at the box office with even 50 per cent occupancy.
“People are absolutely ready to come to the theatres and enjoy if there is a new film, and if the content is good; simple,” Chinni feels, adding that the Ravi Teja-starrer and Vaishnav Tej’s film have already proved this.
Meanwhile, in view of the surge in Covid-19 cases, the Telugu Film Producers Council has decided to carry out emergency film shootings with maximum of 50 members crew.