MUMBAI // Indian sporting enthusiasts have been spoiled by back-to-back cricket tournaments since February, but the events' popularity has cost the Bollywood film industry, already reeling under the economic slowdown.
The cricket frenzy, which peaked when the Indian team won the World Cup this month, is keeping fans away from cinemas, affecting ticket sales and forcing studios to delay big releases.
The Indian Premier League (IPL), which began with much fanfare less than a week after the World Cup ended, only made matters worse for Bollywood.
Industry watchers say multiplex cinema chains, which account for 75 per cent of a film's earnings, lost up to 500 million rupees (Dh41.3m) in the past two months.
Angel Broking, based in Mumbai, estimates ticket sales at theatres declined by up to 15 per cent in this period. The extent of the loss will be known only when the IPL ends at the end of next month.
The official IPL telecaster Set Max is expecting a windfall this season of about 10 billion rupees, a third more than last season. ESPN Star Sports, the World Cup broadcaster, earned 8bn rupees.
"The calendar year 2011 is poised to be the biggest in the history of ESPN Star Sports in India," Rathindra Basu, the senior director for business development at the channel, said before the start of the Cup.
Cricket and Bollywood, two of India's biggest obsessions, have seldom competed for business, but the battle for viewers has intensified since the two tournaments started.
"During the cricket season, it does not make business sense to release big-banner movies," says Alok Tandon, the chief executive of the multiplex chain Inox Leisure.
Thank You, one of the few films released this month, received a tepid response at the box office. Dum Maro Dum, another big-budget film, is not expected to do bumper business when released tomorrow despite its bankable stars Abhishek Bachchan and Deepika Padukone.
India's film industry is the largest in the world by ticket sales and number of movies produced each year. Bollywood and other regional language cinemas produce more than 1,000 films a year in 20 languages, the global consultancy Ernst & Young says.
Almost 3.3 billion movie tickets are sold every year, the highest number of any country, across 10,000 theatre screens.
But in recent years the movie business has sharp slowed. KPMG estimates revenues declined by a fifth in the past three years to $1.85bn last year from $2.3bn in 2008.
Bollywood had a string of flops last year, resulting in losses of between 4bn rupees and 5bn rupees.
Dabangg, a Hindi blockbuster that starred Salman Khan, was the biggest hit of the year, earning 1.45bn rupees.
But many other big-budget movies starring big stars flopped. Less than a quarter of the 237 films released last year turned a profit, according to Box Office India.
Most of this year's big-budget films are to be released after next month.
Multiplex owners are exploring new ways to increase audiences until then. Some have demanded that the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) give them broadcast rights for IPL matches.
Mr Tandon says Inox screened the semi-final and final matches of the World Cup at its multiplexes to packed houses.