On Wednesday, July 28, Universal Pictures announced that its releasing its much-awaited flick, Fast & Furious 9, in the cinemas in India, on August 19. The decision was taken despite the two key markets of Maharashtra and West Bengal not allowing the cinemas to open. The next day, West Bengal allowed theatres to restart from July 31. The same day, a minister of the Maharashtra government indicated that the theatres will be allowed to open in the state in August. It led to a lot of cheer among everyone in the trade and industry.
The next day, it was announced that Bellbottom, the Akshay Kumar starrer, would arrive in cinemas, also on August 19. The film was earlier supposed to release on July 27. This announcement too got the excitement going as it will be the first big Hindi film since March 2020 to arrive on the big screen. However, a section of trade and exhibitors, particularly single screen owners, were concerned that both films are releasing on the same day.
An exhibitor on condition of anonymity lashed out, “Is it the only release week available in the whole year? Are the rest of the Fridays already occupied? Bellbottom can release a week before or after.”
Trade analyst Atul Mohan also felt such a scenario should not arise, “They should avoid the clash. Does the public have the capacity to watch two films in the same week? Do they have time and money to invest in two big films releasing on the same day?”
Vishek Chauhan, owner of Roopbani Cinema in Bihar, stated, “The clash is not viable and both films are highly awaited. Bellbottom is a huge Hindi film starring a superstar. In the larger interest of the trade, one of the films should move. And I think Fast & Furious 9 should do that as it’s a Hollywood film which has already been released. It’s relatively smaller and also it’ll not stand a chance against Akshay Kumar. Although I understand that it’s out on VOD (video on demand) since July 30; maybe they can come on August 13.”
Taran Adarsh, meanwhile, has a different point of view, “Clashes are inevitable. You can’t avoid it in today’s times. On one hand, you have Fast & Furious 9, which is a huge brand. And on the other hand, you have Akshay Kumar bringing the first big Hindi film for release when the cinemas reopen. It’s something to look forward to but for me, most importantly; it’s a wait-and-watch situation as to how many people come into cinema halls. And I don’t look at it as a clash. We always stress that big films should be released to revive the cinema business. So here are two biggies, both belonging to different genres and languages, releasing on the same day. So I think it’s a great move. I am seeing it positively. Let audiences come in. That’s more important at the moment rather than looking at the clash.”
He also added that the situation could have been worse had one more film joined in the clash, “Had it been three films, I would have said two is a company, three is a crowd!”
Vishek Chauhan made an interesting observation, “One doesn’t know how many cinemas are going to open. Not to forget that most states have allowed cinemas to open at 50% occupancy. So with presumably 50% screens opening at 50% occupancy, if you are going to release two big films, the business gets divided and will suffer. This will not do justice to the potential of either Bellbottom or Fast & Furious 9.”
What has baffled trade and industry is that the clash is happening on a day which is not a big holiday (Muharram falls on August 19). Vishek Chauhan remarked, “It’s not like Christmas or Diwali is on August 19. So why is this desperation to bring both the films on that day? Hence, one film should move.”
An industry insider told us, “The pressure seems to be on Fast & Furious 9 to move. But it’s not feasible as several other Hollywood films are coming every week. Advancing the release from August 19 to August 13 has also been ruled out as the studio would ideally want a three-week promotional campaign. Moreover, let’s not forget that Universal decided to release Fast & Furious 9 at a time when Maharashtra and West Bengal had not even allowed cinemas to resume operations.”
The insider also said, “Also, we need to understand that the guidelines from the Maharashtra government have not come in. Hence, no one is celebrating yet as there’s a fear that the government might add some clause which would prove unfair to the cinema business.”
The clash has led to uncertainty and anxiety among the trade and mainly exhibitors. Everyone is happening and a final decision is taken soon on whether or not the clash is happening. Vishek Chauhan signed off by saying, “Fast & Furious 7 had collected Rs. 100 crore plus. The films of this franchise normally do Rs. 70-80 crore business. Moreover, we don’t even know how the box office performance would be when films are released. Then why are we clashing?”
The insider, meanwhile, sighed, “I wish Maharashtra and Delhi had opened earlier. Then maybe Fast & Furious 9 would have been scheduled for a release on August 13. Or maybe, Akshay Kumar could have taken the date as Independence Day also falls in the week. Imagine, if clashes are happening right now, what will happen later when normalcy would kick in. So many Hindi and English films are awaiting release. Not just Hindi vs English films but two big Hollywood films or two big Bollywood films would also come on the same day. Clashes ki aadat daalni padegi.”
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