COVID-19 Freezes Rs. 2 Billion Worth Of Investment In Film Industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a sombre shadow over the fledgling Nepali movie business for the last one-and-a-half years, adversely impacting box office revenues. With the pandemic showing no signs of subsiding, the situation is looking grim for the industry.

Major film productions have been indefinitely postponed while several workers employed by the industry have either been laid off or rendered job less.

One of the notable film directors, Akash Adhikari who is also the President of Nepal film Producer’s Association said that the COVID-19-imposed restrictions has critically upended the domestic film industry.

“Our film industry was slowly ascending to newer heights but COVID-19 pandemic has thrown this field into a deep abyss. To resurrect movie business, the government must back filmmakers,” he said.

In 2018, a total of 110 films were produced while 85 films got theatrical releases. Likewise, in 2019, 65 films hit the theatres. However, in 2021 from mid- March to mid- July, 25 films were ready to release but productions have been postponed indefinitely because of the pandemic, said Adhiakri. He further informed that there is a backlog of some 70 to 80 films awaiting commercial release.

Around 35,000 people are directly involved in the film industry and a further 175,000 people are indirectly dependent. Now, around Rs. 1.75 billion invested in the industry have been frozen – leaving the fate of all industry workers in limbo, said Adhikari.

Filmmakers, hall operators and other cinema related people were working in the cinema sector with bank loans but for a year-and-a-half, the cinema business has come to a complete standstill, causing many hall operators to shut-down operations in a desperate attempt to weather the crisis, said Adhikari.

A total of around 150 halls across the country remain temporarily closed, while 30 to 35 of them have permanently shut their doors to general public.

A large portion of this investment came from bank loans. And since the movie sector does not get project loans, many filmmakers take out loans through other medium such as home loans. They have not been able to use even the government sponsored concessions, said Adhikari.

However, on a positive note, the crisis has spawned unique opportunities. Now many filmmakers have understood the importance of digital platforms and access to digital platforms has somewhat helped the film industry, he added.

Now, Nepali films should focus on targeting global audiences. International coordination and co-productions should be encouraged to put Nepali stories in the map, added Adhikari.

One of the most successful film directors, Dipendra K. Khanal, whose film “Aama” had to severely bear the brunt of COVID restrictions, is distraught to have his plans ruined. Aama is highly on demand and people are awaiting its release both in Nepal and abroad but the virus continues to impact our work.

While the film became one of the highest earners in 2020, director Khanal, was expecting to earn over Rs, 25 million.

Likewise, his new film “Chiso Manchhe” starring popular actress Swstima Khadka is in post-production made after the first wave of coronavirus and is currently in line waiting for a release date.
However, director Khanal is uncertain about the future of this film.

He told to The Rising Nepal that around Rs. 15 million has been invested in the film. “The only hope is to wait for the nation to complete the vaccination drive and bide our time until things return back to normal,” he said.
One of the most talked about films “Chapali Height-3” was being prepared for release on March 11 last year and Santosh Sen’s “Prem Geet-3” was scheduled to come out around the same time but the films have not been able to see the light of day.

Dozen other films, including “Lakka Jawan”, “Hijoajaka Kura”, “Suskera”, “Nirphool”, “Michael Adhikari”, “Shatkona”, ‘Akashe Kheti’ and others are still in limbo.

Source : TRN,