x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE film takings down during holy month

Fasting, time with families and iftar meals have an impact on box office receipts, but big gains are expected when clutch of new movies arrive.

Abu Dhabi // Cinemas are expected to show a slump in takings during Ramadan thanks to the release of summer blockbusters being delayed until after the holy month.

New movies are normally shelved until Eid Al Fitr in the UAE, with a knock-on effect on ticket sales.

Attendance is also affected by Muslims fasting for 15 hours a day during Ramadan, people choosing to spend more time with their family and attend iftars, and expatriates going on holiday, distributors have said.

"In Ramadan, business drops big-time due to the lack of movies in theatres, especially during summer as it is the blockbuster season and distributors will not release in Ramadan," said Kifah Ghraizi, regional manager at movie distributor, Empire International.

"For instance, Lone Ranger, Despicable Me 2, Wolverine, Red 2, Pacific Rim and TheSmurfs 2 - all these blockbuster titles were delayed from July to August due to Ramadan," said Mr Ghraizi.

He said a ban on drinking and eating in public places during the day also had a negative impact on box-office takings.

"The closure of restaurants in the mall and cinema affects business. Watching a movie without popcorn, cola or nachos will not be as enjoyable and entertaining."

John Chahine, the general manager of the UAE branch of the film distributor Italia Film, which handles about 40 to 50 films here each year, expected to see a 70 per cent decline in sales during Ramadan. He said this was largely due to the delay in blockbusters coming to the big screen.

Mr Chahine said the animated sequel Despicable Me 2 was among the list of eagerly awaited films that was set to hit the big screen in the UAE following Eid - weeks after it went on release elsewhere in the world.

The drop in business was also attributable in part to Ramadan being a time where Emiratis spend time with their family, he said. The timing of Ramadan has also meant many expatriates had left the UAE during the summer holidays to escape the hot weather.

"The locals - they do not want to come," he said. "For them, Ramadan is a time for fasting and family.

"Meanwhile, expatriates are on vacation. This is why we are left with 30 per cent [of normal sales]."

Kishore Punjabi, the general manager of the Grand Safeer Cinema, in Mussaffah, agreed ticket sales declined during the holy month.

The cinema is normally very quiet with only a smattering of visitors during Ramadan, Mr Punjabi said.

"We do have a few people that come, but the business drops during Ramadan," he said.

"We do not show the new movies until Eid. We do not have any big movies during this month, only the small movies."

Last year the debut of the long-awaited Batman film The Dark Knight Rises was an instant box-office smash when it was released in the United States on July 20. However, fans in the Emirates had to wait almost one month for its official release here.

When it finally opened, alongside other blockbusters including the new Disney cartoon Brave, the fourth in the Step Up dance movie franchise and the Sylvester Stallone action movie The Expendables 2, cinemas had one of their busiest weekends in the year.

A similar situation is expected this year as few new films are released during Ramadan but, on August 8, when Eid begins, the action movie Red 2, The Smurfs 2 and Despicable Me 2 are among the numerous new releases to open.

 

jbell@thenational.ae