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Hollywood strike may hit Indian box office

The Hollywood writers’ strike, now supported by actors, has halted film and television production in the US, resulting in potential delays for titles such as Avatar 3 and movies from the Star Wars and Avengers franchises.

The strike, now entering its fourth month, is causing concerns among Indian studio executives and theatre owners, too, especially as the content slated to release early next year may not be complete, and actors may not be available for promotions. Avatar 3 has reportedly been pushed by a year to 2025.

This could be a dampener for the Indian box office, which has just begun to see some green shoots thanks to tentpole Hollywood releases and considers these movies crucial for business throughout the year.

“If the strike continues for another couple of months, it is definitely going to impact productions for the future. Films slated for this year may also get postponed, not because they are not ready, but because the stars will not be available to promote them. Most of the films slated for release over the next six to nine months have already completed shooting and are in post-production, where they don’t need the writers or the actors (to shoot), so they will be fine. However, you need the stars to promote the film, so even if you have a completed product, studios may take a call to push films to 2024,” said a senior executive at the Indian arm of a Hollywood studio. This is also applicable for top TV series, and if the strike continues longer, it is definitely going to impact the streamers who have a lot of series under production, the person added.

To be sure, a box office duel between two tentpole Hollywood films, Oppenheimer and Barbie, close on the heels of the action film Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One, has just brought much-needed cheer to the Indian box office after months of slump. Oppenheimer is estimated to have ended its first week with collections of Rs72 crore, and Barbie with earnings of Rs26 crore. Mission: Impossible, on the other hand, has crossed the Rs100 crore mark. That said, several large-scale Hollywood films have underperformed at the India box office over the past few months.

“One of the challenges for underwhelming performance in cinemas can be attributed to the complexity of meeting fans’ expectations. While good content that resonates with the audience is often praised and loved, living up to the anticipation and demands of the fans can be a daunting task. Audiences have varying tastes and preferences, and it is not always easy to pre-empt what will capture their attention and generate enthusiasm Additionally, the film industry is highly competitive, with numerous movies vying for attention and box office success. Therefore, it is essential to carefully select and promote films that have the potential to captivate audiences and meet their expectations,” said Devang Sampat, chief executive of Cinepolis India.

There is concern among theatre owners because they need a consistent flow of content across languages and regions, said independent distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi. “We need something for everyone, and Hollywood plays a significant role in our business. This is an issue of global concern and one that affects the entire value chain,” Rathi added.

To be sure, the strike is likely to impact the pipeline for not just cinemas but also streaming platforms. In its latest earnings call, Ted Sarandos, co-CEO, president and director at Netflix, said the strike was not the outcome the company wanted. “We make deals all the time. We are constantly at the table negotiating with writers, directors, actors, producers, with everyone across the industry, and we very much hoped to reach an agreement by now. We produced heavily across all kinds of content—TV, film, unscripted, scripted, local domestic, English and non-English. The real point is we need to get to this strike to a conclusion so that we can all move forward,” Sarandos had said.

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Updated: 01 Aug 2023, 12:58 AM IST

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