FEATURE

Demonetization-Boon or Bane for Bollywood? Producers and exhibitors react

By Manishaa R

One year after the Government’s abrupt demonetization move stumped the movie-making industry, with business registering an all-time low, producers, distributors and exhibitors in the trade, who struggled for months together to cope up with the acute cash crunch and the idea of a cashless economy, now seem to have come to terms with reality.

Producer and trade film analyst, Rajeev Chaudhari says that despite the initial hiccups, a majority of filmmakers have now got used to the idea of cashless dealings, “It was a tough challenge for filmmakers in the first few months, especially since a majority of dealings were done in cash whether it was paying the spot boys, lightmen, make-up artistes and so on but producers have now settled down to the idea of doing most transactions by cheque. There are hardly any cash dealings today, even when it comes to making payments to the labour class,” Chaudhari insists.

According to him, the demonetization move has actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for producers, “That’s because every bit of expense is now accounted for. Earlier the budgets used to go haywire as cash used to be given indiscriminately to production controllers. Cash vouchers would get lost and there was no record. Now we can have a clear idea about the expenses incurred on various heads. Also, you can claim all these expenses while filing returns,” Chaudhari states.

The same cannot be said about the exhibition sector. According to a leading exhibitor who controls several theatres in the interiors of North India and spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Government’s overnight decision dealt a big blow to the single screens, “It was like a bolt from the blue. Business was a total wash-out and we saw our theatres going empty for months together.  I know of quite a few theatres which closed down during this period after running empty since these theatres were patronized by the labour class,” this exhibitor revealed.

“Earlier the budgets used to go haywire as cash used to be given indiscriminately to production controllers. Cash vouchers would get lost and there was no record” – Rajeev Chaudhari

However Nitin Datar, former President and current Executive member of the COEAI (Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India) has a different take, “There was a problem in the beginning for the first few months but slowly and steadily, the collections were stable. Also the problem had more to do with the content of some films. The films which scored on content did score at the box-office. One of the films which beat the demonetization blues was the John Abraham starrer, Force 2.”

According to Datar, the exhibitors should have ideally taken advantage of the facilities extended by the Government for cashless dealings, “They had offered several incentives to encourage the move one of them being installing paytm wallet and digital booking of tickets online. The exhibitors should have availed of it,” Datar avers adding that some exhibitors are actually finding it a better way of transacting.

“One of the films which beat the demonetization blues was the John Abraham starrer, Force 2” – Nitin Datar, Former President, COEAI

Exhibitor Manoj Desai has the last word, “I don’t deny that demonetization cut severely into the business of films but the bigger problem for the box-office is the rampant piracy that is cutting into the business. Demonetization is just one of the problem but there are bigger issues that need to be looked into,” Desai quips.