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Hollywood waits as Hindi films hog theatres

Clipping (48kbs) - The Bombay Times, 10-11-1995. By Suresh Nair

Record Number : A0020202

Click to browse by keyword: Cinema Film exhibition Film Stars Celebrities Global Culture Globalisation National Culture Multinational Corporations MNC Private corporations Competition Market forces Prices


Hollywood waits as Hindi films hog theatres
Suresh Nair, Bombay

THEY MAY be the biggest stars in the world, but all the Hollywood heart throbs get is six weeks at Sterling, Bombay’s premier movie theatre. And the only other theatre in the city that will accommodate the latest blockbusters from Hollywood is Regal -a grim scenario for Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Columbia and Disney.

With a backlog of films awaiting release, it is becoming increasingly difficult for major film companies to get playing time at these two theatres. With more and more theatres in the city opting for popular Bollywood fare, these are indeed hard days for the likes of Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson.

The stupendous success of Rangeela and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, at Eros and New Excelsior respectively, has shown that there is more money in screening Hindi movies than English. A potential blockbuster in Hindi gives the theatre owners an excuse to hike their admission rates. “People will not come to see an English film if the rates are hiked,” says P L Manjrekar, senior publicity manager of 20th Century Fox (India).

A hike in admission rates leads to higher revenue on the same percentage. Thus, the 1,110-seat New Excelsior today has the country’s highest capacity in monetary terms with Rs 11.9 lakh per week Dilwale/wale... rakes in Rs 1.7 lakh on four shows each day). Other top earners are Metro with Rs 8.87 lakh for Barsaat per week and Eros with Rs 5.91 lakh per week for Rangeela. In fact, Metro had started the trend of hiking the rates for a particular period with the release of each Subhash Ghai movie.

“The hike goes on till the demand exists,” explains Manjrekar, “and then it comes down to the normal rates.” And since the government is a big beneficiary of such hikes, thanks to the 33 per cent entertainment tax, applications for such hikes to the tax authorities are duly passed.

“It is more lucrative to screen a Hindi film,” admits Maneck Sidhwa, the owner of Regal and Capitol, ‘because the distributors pay well. They pay for nearly 50 per cent of the theatre capacity, irrespective of whether the theatre is houseful or not.” But Sarabjit Singh, general manager of Paramount Films of India, feels that this is mainly due to the fact that exhibitors still rule the market, “so if a theatre owner demands money worth 50 per cent capacity, the distributor doesn’t have much of a choice.”

In a country that makes 750 films a year and imports another 125 from Hollywood, there are only about 7,500 movie theatres to exhibit them. “So, at any given time, there can’t be more than two releases,” explains Singh,adding,“so the demand and supply levels are severely disproportionate.”

The resurgence of the Hindi film industry since Hum Aapke Hai Koun has made it difficult for foreign film distributors to get decent playing time for their imports at a good movie theatre. Reliable sources say that Sterling is now on the look out for only those movies that will run for a minimum of six weeks.

‘We may also do the same at Regal,” Sidhwa informs Bombay Times. Die Hard With A Vengeance had to be taken off from Regal after three weeks despite doing 98 per cent business each week, as the theatre had already been booked for Richie Rich.

Also, 20th Century has been unsuccessfully trying to release The Mask for the past three months at Regal. Says Manjrekar, “You have to book your releases at least three months in advance.” In fact, Bombay has been replaced by the southern zone as the first release centre for Hollywood movies.

“Muitliplexes may be the only solution,” feels Sarabjit Singh. “Since each multiplex will have four to five screens, I expect business to go up by three times.” While multiplex projects are still to take shape in Bombay, Paramount and 20th Century will have to share Sterling and Regal between them for some more time.

And blockbusters like Nine Months, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Waterworld will have to wait for their turn to dazzle Bombayites.







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