Fresh lockdowns & Entertainment industry: Staring at the spectre of loss again
Faced with a second wave of COVID-19 infections currently, lockdowns, night curfews and strict protocol orders have been imposed in several states, including Maharashtra and Delhi. The country stares at the spectre of a repeat of 2020 as daily COVID-19 crossed 1 lakh on April 4, 2021.
Along with various sectors, the current developments do not augur well for the entertainment sector. Having just achieved some normalcy, the entertainment is in a tizzy as cinema halls, malls, theatres have been shut down in Maharashtra till April 30. Though shootings have been allowed, there are strict protocols to be followed, which include no crowd scenes, intimate scenes or fight scenes, fewer people on the sets, maintaining social distancing. Given the weekend lockdown in Maharashtra, no shootings can take place from 8 pm on Friday to 7 am on Monday.
Already we have been seeing daily news reports of actors, junior artistes and other people associated with the entertainment testing positive or COVID-19. Some of the big names include Akshay Kumar, Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Bhumi Phednekar, among others.
Just last week, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) had written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackarey, urging him to not issue order to shut down Cinemas/ multiplexes/ shopping centers/ malls in the state. The Association urged the Chief Minister to allow cinemas and malls to operate as per regular operational hours.
With restricted hours of shootings, the television industry is also keeping a close watch on the flow of content. In 2020, there was no fresh content on television for over four months due to no shootings being allowed.
According to the latest FICCI-EY report on India’s M&E industry, the Filmed entertainment segment declined by 62% in 2020. Around 441 films were released during the year 2020, as compared to 1,833 releases in 2019 on account of lockdowns and social distancing norms announced due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Consequently, the filmed entertainment segment saw an 80% decline across domestic and international theatrical revenues.
Broadcast rights values fell 68% due to fewer completed new films and business caution by broadcasters.
Digital rights consequently grew 86% to reach Rs 35.4 billion as films were released directly on OTT platforms at rates, which compensated producers (wholly or in part) for lost theatrical revenues.
Meanwhile, the Multiplex Association of India had last year in its letter to the Government of India had claimed that in just six months of the lockdown, the rate of losses resulting from closure of cinema halls stood at Rs 1,500 crore per month and amounted to Rs 9,000 crore over the six months.
It may be noted here that cinema halls were the first public places to be shut down amid the pandemic in 2020 and the last to reopen after the number of cases abated.
These are indeed tough times for the entertainment sector. While movies found a new release platform in OTT last year, it is unlikely that the big ticket Bollywood films will shift to digital any time soon.
FICCI-EY has projected that the film segment should rebound to Rs 153.2 billion in 2021 and keep growing to reach Rs 243.8 billion by 2023. The rising number of COVID-19 cases again can be seen as putting a spanner on all industry projections.
The Government and the industry has a tough balancing act in front of them – breaking the chain of fresh infections on the one hand, and helping the industry recover and do good business as in the pre-COVID-19 times, on the other hand.