Published: 2021-11-05 16:24
Last Updated: 2022-09-30 10:51
Bollywood action flick "Sooryavanshi" kicks off a slate of holiday season blockbuster releases on Friday as India's Covid-battered cinemas try to lure audiences back into theatres and away from booming online streaming services.
Cinemas were shuttered back in March 2020 in a strict lockdown when the pandemic first hit, enjoying a brief reprieve before closing again after a massive virus surge in April.
India's media and entertainment earnings fell by a quarter to $18.7 billion last year, according to accounting firm EY, and most multiplex chains suffered major losses.
But the industry is anticipating a rebound with theatres now back in business across the country, most recently in Bollywood capital Mumbai.
Hindi film "Sooryavanshi" -- starring top names Akshay Kumar and Ranveer Singh -- is the first marquee Bollywood film to be released on the big screen in 18 months.
Delayed since the start of the pandemic, Kumar stars as an anti-terrorism chief working to stop an attack in Mumbai.
Its performance at the box office will be seen as a litmus test of whether audiences will flock back to cinemas in the world's most prolific movie market.
"This film is very crucial for the film industry," Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer for the country's second-largest cinema chain INOX, told AFP.
"The buzz is also very good."