AFP / Mumbai
Cinemas began re-opening in movie-mad Mumbai yesterday, the home of Bollywood, with theatres in India’s tinseltown pinning their hopes on blockbuster releases from next month to pull back in the crowds. The pandemic torpedoed the industry worldwide but films have a special place in Indian culture.
Lockdowns and a devastating surge in coronavirus cases in April and May kept Indians away from the silver screen, putting dozens of small cinemas out of business and squeezing production firms hard.
Many Indians turned instead to streaming platforms such as Netflix, which saw a boom in subscribers and hosted the releases of some new Bollywood films. Yesterday, only a few cinemas took advantage of being allowed to open, showing older pictures as well as the new James Bond and US superhero caper “Venom”, and punters were few and far between.
“I am an avid cinema enthusiast and I have been waiting for this day for a long time. The last movie I saw was in 2019, before the pandemic began. I am too excited to be back,” said Smer Sagar, 18, fresh from seeing No Time to Die. The industry is hoping that a string of new big-budget flicks — some made months ago but unreleased — will bring back the good times. The massive backlog will begin screening from Diwali weekend in early November with Sooryavanshi starring Akshay Kumar, one of Bollywood’s biggest stars.
Bollywood, India’s Hindi-language film industry, was worth $2.5bn in 2019 and is the world’s most prolific. Movies in other languages are also big business. Maharashtra state and its capital Mumbai are among the last to re-open theatres, multiplexes and auditoriums, but for the industry it is “very, very important”, film trade analyst Komal Nahta said.
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