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Bollywood takes a breather as World Cup captures public’s imagination

(The UKAsian – Feb 19): With the 2011 Cricket World Cup in full swing, Bollywood seems to have resigned itself to the fact – at least for the next two months – the public’s attentions will be fixed on TV screens and stadia. India’s dominant display in the opening fixture against Bangladesh has only added to the acknowledgement not only by Bollywood but the myriad 24-hour news and entertainment channels that the biggest TV audience in the world has only one thing in mind; the battle between willow and ball.

One analyst told Reuters, “For a multiplex for example, every show is a perishable item, so if they don’t use the multiplex screen for that 3-hour period to the fullest, they lose. It’s like flying an empty plane.”

The March quarter is traditionally a weak one for theatre chains in India due to most schools and universities holding their examinations during the month; the sprawling World Cup, which runs from 19th February to 02nd April in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, will only add to the entertainment industry’s woes.

23 films are slated for release in February and March 2011 compared to more than 30 during the same period last year; of those films only a handful will feature established stars such as Priyanka chopra and Akshay Kumar. “We have consciously planned all our big film releases post April due to the World Cup,” Kamal Jain, Chief Financial Officer at Eros International Media Ltd, told Reuters. “It can affect viewership and we don’t want to take any chances.”

The World Cup however, is expected to boost the available advertising revenue for print and electronic media. Writing in a research report, Emkay analyst Naval Seth suggested “General Entertainment channels would have pressure on the ad revenues as major portion of ad spend will be diverted to sport channels such as ESPN Star and SET MAX.” Advertising revenue from cricketing events have skyrocketed in recent years, in particular since the advent of the Indian Premier League. Revenues from both the Cricket World Cup and the upcoming fourth season of the IPL is estimated to reach $620 million this year.

Meanwhile, hotel chains in India, already in the midst of a boom due to corporate demand are eyeing higher bookings as fans from around the world flock to the sub-continent, in particular to major cities such as Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai, where the final will be held. Hoteliers tell Reuters many customers have even been put on waiting lists as rooms in some regions have been fully booked.

– Reports/Vijitha Alles

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