Padmaavat row to bite exhibitors: Four states refused to allow film to run

Activists of Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena protest the release of the film Padmaavat in Coimbatore
With four states refusing to allow the screening of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, Bollywood and movie theatre owners are not looking at a good beginning to the year.

Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have refused to allow the film to run, along with parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The revenue loss for the film because of this is expected to be in the range of Rs 800 million to Rs 1 billion. Exhibitors in these states are looking at empty seats and unsold confectionery items for the better half of the coming week.

The four states put together account for nearly 30 per cent of a Bollywood film’s collection. “The film has other ways to recover the money. Music rights, international business, online streaming rights and much more. The exhibitors are left with no content to put on their screens. All the cinema halls put together will suffer close to Rs 1 billion in losses with no way to recover this damage,” said a distributor on condition of anonymity.

The impact on single screens is far worse than multiplexes. The latter have the option of juggling different films and at least have some screens running. 

Single screens that have banked on Padmaavat for a long weekend are finding it better to suspend operations rather than run another movie. Ancillary revenues from food and beverage sales are also expected to take a hit.

Security personnel stand guard outside a cinema house after the release of the film

“It makes more sense to just not open for business today. The fear psychosis is preventing people from going to watch the film in areas of Delhi as well. There is no major release from Bollywood, Hollywood or regional cinema this week. There is practically no new film of note till Pad Man releases on February 9,” says Shaaminder Malik, an independent distributor and trade analyst.

Instances of vandalism in north India over Padmaavat have resulted in damage to property. Two Cinepolis properties find themselves with torn screens even before the film was released. Similar cases have been reported in cities like Ahmedabad. 

“A screen costs between Rs 200,000 and Rs 500,000. These multiplexes will incur those losses too. Insurance notwithstanding, these screens will not be functional,” Malik adds.

The threat of vandalism has prompted certain multiplex owners to close for the weekend. Early estimates peg the premier day footfalls from the remaining markets to be in the range of 2.5-2.8 million.

“Since the film’s theme is popular in the southern states, it should do well there, especially in the second half of the day. It has released in Tamil and Telugu as well and there should be decent collections in these versions. Maharashtra, too, will contribute. Footfalls could touch 3 million, but it is safe to say 2.5-2.8 million will have seen the film by Republic Day,” says another distributor.

The film made around Rs 50 million from paid preview shows on Wednesday. Made at a cost of Rs 1.3 billion, Padmaavat needs to earn at least Rs 2.7 billion to break even and book profits at the theatre level. 

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