CINEWORLD’s decision to close all of its UK cinemas until April will have a negative impact on Indian cinema as its theatres host more than half of all Bollywood screenings in the UK, presenting between 40 and 50 different films a year.
The prospect of reduced takings in the UK is being felt in Mumbai, where the industry relies on the territory for a sizeable chunk of its overseas revenue, reported The Guardian.
Cineworld is a vital link to Bollywood’s overseas market.
“Cineworld has played an important part in bringing Indian films to the UK,” told Vikram Malhotra, CEO of production company Abundantia Entertainment, whose films include Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Shakuntala Devi, to Guardian.
“Most Indian films have released via Cineworld. It’s an unprecedented situation and revenues from overseas markets will surely be impacted as Cineworld goes non-operational. Considering the importance of the UK market for overseas business, the loss of Cineworld will be felt widely across the industry.”
Cineworld was still in its infancy, with only 14 venues, when it was approached by two Bollywood production companies about showing their films.
“Back then, no Bollywood films were being released in the UK, so we took a chance and started playing the films at two locations,” said Stuart Crane, head of film programming at Cineworld.
“We put the shows into screens of 150 seats to test the waters, but it soon became clear this was an audience that had been underrepresented for far too long. We would have weekends where our top three films in these cinemas were all Bollywood films, and would be making considerably more than most of the Hollywood product.”
The UK diaspora became an unexpected goldmine for Cineworld and in the early 2000s, Bollywood films accounted for 20 per cent of Cineworld’s screens.
Its venues in Feltham and Ilford were the top two cinemas in Europe for Bollywood titles and Cineworld began to hold star-studded premieres.
Soon, Bollywood films were creeping up the box office top 10, snapping on the heels of Hollywood blockbusters. At its peak, In 2010, My Name is Khan played in more than a third of Cineworld’s screens in its opening weekend, taking £2.6m at the UK box office.
Om Shanti Om made more than £2m from the UK box office in 2007.
With several highly anticipated recent releases bypassing the cinema and going straight to streaming services, including Gulabo Sitabo starring Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, many in the industry fear that Bollywood will struggle to regain the overseas foothold of its pre-Covid days, the report said.