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Regional films steal the show as festive quarter begins

The festive quarter is off to a promising start for cinemas, building steam before theatres open in Maharashtra and big Bollywood titles release later this month.

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While the latest James Bond film, No Time to Die, is looking to collect about ₹16 crore in the first eight days, good news also comes from the North that has seen two Punjabi blockbusters in less than a month— Qismat 2 and Chal Mera Putt 2. Qismat 2 made ₹10.6 crore in the first week and the latter ₹3 crore.

With another small-budget money-spinner, Rudra Thandavam, released last weekin the South, trade experts said audiences appear willing to return to cinemas. But studios and producers should invest more in marketing and creating a buzz, especially in northern India that has shown the first signs of recovery in the past few weeks, the experts said.

“There is some sort of normalcy setting in, and people are definitely stepping out of home, at least in the South and Punjab,” film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. While occupancies in some states touched 30% pre-covid for small-scale films, they are now hovering around 22-25% in what makes for a promising start given capacities are already capped at 50%, he added.

The southern India success story may be well documented by now but, in a blog, trade website Box Office India said No Time To Die has fared better than the other recent Hollywood titles: Marvel’s superhero flick Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings in north India, pointing to green shoots for the film business.

Business in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and East Punjab for the James Bond film hit the ₹5 crore mark in six days, compared to Shang Chi that had made ₹4.25 crore in the same period. “This is also thanks to the improving conditions in Delhi city and Punjab,” the blog said.

In Delhi, Qismat 2 has also fared well. The film is on its way to emerging as the highest grossing Punjabi language movie after the pandemic, having made ₹13.50 crore after its second weekend across India.

“It is helping that there are no major Hindi releases, so Qismat 2 can get more screenings in key multiplexes of the capital; but, as always, the content has to work, too, and Qismat 2 has been appreciated in Delhi city in a big way,” the Box Office India blog said.

The other big success story has come from south India, where audiences have already shown their keenness to go back to cinemas. Telugu film Love Story recorded ₹8.5-9 crore on day one—the best start for a film since the second wave and the eighth best opening post the pandemic, in general. The film was especially strong in Hyderabad and surrounding areas, which are officially allowing full occupancy, Box Office India said.

Trade experts said it will take more marketing and promotional efforts by studios to draw audiences back to cinemas for Hindi and Hollywood films.

The collections of even No Time to Die are subdued in India, compared to the phenomenal response overseas.

The Daniel Craig-starrer grossed over $121 million in international territories, according to trade website Box Office Mojo.

“Earlier, if the reviews for Hollywood films were good, the word-of-mouth would trickle down. But post the pandemic, the awareness and buzz seem low and, of course, there is still some fear of infections while economic conditions may not make entertainment a priority for people,” Johar said. Live Mint

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