Mumbai: The box office performance of the Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi, Rajinikanth-headlined Annaatthe and multi-starrer Hollywood release Eternals has infused a much needed festive spirit to the cinema business. It was hit badly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but now is showing signs of recovery, said exhibitors and distributors. The three mega films released during the Diwali weekend to mixed critical reviews but were lapped up by the masses.
Sooryavanshi directed by Rohit Shetty, released on more than 3,000 screens across India and clocked Rs 77 crore in its opening weekend. On the other hand, the tentpole superhero film Eternals from the Marvel Cinematic Universe stable also put up a total of Rs 19.15 crore in India.
Sooryavanshi producers waited for nearly 18 months for the film’s release. It was originally slated to arrive in theatres in March last year. However, the pandemic led to an unprecedented shutdown of cinema halls everywhere.
Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR Pictures, said with Sooryavanshi, Annaatthe and Eternals, the Diwali the film industry was waiting for had finally arrived.
“The business of all three films has exceeded our expectations. The numbers are phenomenal. These films were critical and their current box office figures have put all anxieties and apprehensions to rest,” said Gianchandani.
“While Annaatthe saw an unprecedented advance booking, Sooryavanshi took off and now there’s no turning back. Eternals too is holding well because Marvel has a hardcore fanbase in India, Gianchandani added.
According to trade observer Himesh Mankad, the Siva-directed Annaatthe made approximately Rs 73 crore in its first weekend. The cumulative figures of the three films stood approximately at Rs 170 crore.
Mankad said the figures are a reason to celebrate as the movies have managed to do an impressive business despite Maharashtra – a core territory for Hindi films – allowing cinema halls to operate only at 50 per cent occupancy.
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“It’s a huge number. If not for the pandemic, this would have been somewhere around Rs 200 crore. So the market is performing at 75 per cent of its potential which is something to celebrate. These are extremely encouraging numbers and will set the ball rolling for future films,” Mankad added.
When the nationwide lockdown was announced last year, many filmmakers headed to the OTT (over-the-top) platform to showcase their films.
Over the months, the debate around the OTT versus cinema halls intensified. Many feared that the pandemic will make the audience comfortable watching films from their homes and thus putting an end to the community viewing experience of a cinema hall.
But Bihar-based exhibitor Vishek Chauhan said the recent releases have muted the debate. His ‘Roopbani Cinema’ in Purnea, Bihar, ran 15 packed shows of Sooryavanshi throughout the weekend.
“For all those who felt theatres are dead, it took a Sooryavanshi to show them the mirror. The business of the film not only proves that the audience is still interested in stepping out and watching films but also that cinema halls are here to stay,” asserted Chauhan.
According to the online ticket booking platform ‘BookMyShow’, Sooryavanshi has crossed 1.5 million tickets on its platform, while Annaatthe surpassed 1.3 million and Eternals crossed half a million mark.