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Big screens turn to Cricket, Taylor Swift as Bollywood crash and burn at the box office

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Bollywood’s flop show is not just bad news for actors and producers but for cinema theatre owners as well. Now, as big-budget spectacles spectacularly crash and burn at the box office (BO), exhibitors are now looking around for other safe bets to bring in the masses and the moolah.

On the menu: Cricket, Ram temple and even Taylor Swift.

Multiplex chain Cinepolis, which has 461 screens across the country on Monday afternoon announced that it has tied up with Star Sports to broadcast live on the big screen the upcoming T20 World Cup. 40 Cinepolis cinema halls have been selected to beam all the India matches, as well as the semi-final and finals of the ICC tournament to be held in the US and Caribbean starting June 5th.

“We believe that big matches deserve the big screen, and this association ensures that fans can experience the thrill of cricket in a truly immersive and communal environment. Our state-of-the-art facilities and commitment to customer satisfaction will make watching these matches a memorable experience for all cricket lovers,” said Devang Sampat, managing director of Cinepolis India.

What perhaps Sampat left out was the bad mauling the industry’s staple, Bollywood films, have been subjected to in the past few months. Big budget films like Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (BMCM) and Maidaanhave been disasters at the BO, forcing exhibitors to seriously worry about balancing their books.

In a way, the vagaries of the movie-going public seem to have caught the film industry unawares. 2023 was a bumper year for Bollywood, with high-octane action films like Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathaan and Jawan both breaching the 1,000 crore rupees mark in worldwide BO collection. Ranbir Kapoor’s Animal, despite being blasted by gender activists, earned 900 crores. Everyone then thought that big screen cinema had emerged out of the shadow cast by the pandemic as well as the challenge of the OTT.

However, 2024 has seen that joy short-lived. BMCM, despite boasting a star cast of Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff, struggled to get past the 60 crore rupees mark at the domestic BO, despite a budget of 350 crore rupees. Similarly, Maidaan starring Ajay Devgn barely made Rs 50 crore on a reported budget of Rs 250 crore. Yodha starring Sidharth Malhotra made Rs 53 crore, still short of its Rs 55 crore budget. Even Fighter considered the biggest Bolly hit of the year, may have made Rs 337 crore, but the return on investment is narrow considering that it cost a reported Rs 250 crore to make.

While regional cinema, particularly Malayalam, has been stunningly successful with sleeper hits like Manjummel Boys which cost Rs 20 crore to make but earned upwards of Rs 240 crore, for nationwide exhibitors, that has been cold comfort, as they need pan-Indian appeal to consistently pull in the crowds.

The result? PVR Inox has been attempting anything from Ram Mandir opening to the Republic Day parade on the big screen, while the latest has been today’s Cinepolis announcement to beam the T20 World Cup live in cinema halls.

PVR Inox, which made losses of 130 crore rupees in the January-March quarter is expected to look at more non-film content — in recent times it had even fallen back to re-screening classics like Titanic and DDLJ and repeats of Oscar winners like Oppenheimer and Dune, considering the weak lineup of new releases.

Of course, in the ‘winner takes all’ world of cinema, all it takes is one big hit for fortune to do a backflip. Theatre owners are hoping that some of the upcoming film releases — a lot of hope is on Telugu’s Pushpa 2, will be the happy ending they were hoping for.

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