Ultimate proof of the importance of Maharashtra as a market for Hindi films was provided on Sunday, with producers competing with each other to schedule releases for long-delayed projects.

The day after the Uddhav Thackeray-led state government decided to reopen movie theatres from October 22, movies ranging from Sooryavanshi to Jayeshbhai Jordaar booked their slots on the calendar. The announcements went on late into the night and spilt over into Monday.

Maharashtra, which has close to 1,000 screens, contributes an estimated 30% to the box-office earnings of most films. Even though theatres in the rest of the country (except Kerala) have been functioning (though at 50% because of the coronavirus pandemic), many producers had postponed their films until Maharashtra opened.

Despite the fact that cinemas in Maharashtra will be allowed to sell only half the number of seats in their halls, the state government’s decision is an undeniable booster shot for show business.

The first to get off the starting line is the Pratik Gandhi-starrer Bhavai, which has been pushed from October 2 to October 22.

Rohit Shetty’s police drama Sooryavanshi is scheduled for November 5. Starring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif, the movie is a spinoff from Shetty’s “copverse”, which includes the Singham films and Simmba. Sooryavanshi includes cameos from the stars in those films, Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh.

Bhavai (2021).

Yash Raj Films will release Bunty Aur Babli 2, directed by Varun V Sharma and starring Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerji, Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari, on November 19. Milap Zaveri’s sequel to Satyamev Jayate is scheduled for November 26.

Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment’s Tadap – An Incredible Love Story, starring Ahan Shetty and Tara Sutaria, will be released on December 3.

Abhishek Kapoor’s romance Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, starring Ayushann Khurrana and Vaani Kapoor, is aiming for a December 10 release.

Abhishek Kapoor, Vaani Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana.

Kabir Khan’s 83, a fictionalised drama about the Indian cricket team’s historic World Cup victory in 1983, will be released on December 25. The cast includes Ranveer Singh as captain Kapil Dev, Tahir Raj Bhasin as Sunil Gavaskar, Jiiva as K Srikkanth, Shairya Karwa as Ravi Shastri and Pankaj Tripathi as the team manager. 83 will be released in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

The Christmas release date was originally reserved for the Forrest Gump remake Laal Singh Chaddha. Produced by and starring Aamir Khan alongside Kareena Kapoor and Naga Chaitanya, the movie has been directed by Advait Chandan. Laal Singh Chaddha will now be released on February 14, 2022.

Another cricket-themed film, Jersey, will be released on December 31. An official remake of Gowtam Tinnanuri’s Telugu hit of the same name, Jersey stars Shahid Kapoor as a batsman who returns to the crease in his mid-thirties.

The January releases include the Prabhas-Pooja Hedge film Radhe Shyam (January 10) and Yash Raj Studios’ historical Prithviraj (January 21). Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi and starring Akshay Kumar, Sanjay Dutt, Sonu Sood and Manushi Chillar, the film is based on Rajput king Prithviraj Chauhan.

YRF’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar, directed by Divyang Thakkar and starring Ranveer Singh and Shalini Pandey, will be released on February 25.

Among the big-budget releases in March is Farhad Samji’s Bachchan Pandey, starring Akshay Kumar, Kriti Sanon and Jacqueline Fernandez. The comedy is scheduled for March 4.

The period drama Shamshera, marking Ranbir Kapoor’s return to the theatres after Sanju in 2018, has booked a March 18 slot. Bhool Bhulaiya 2, Anees Bazmee’s sequel to Priyadarshan’s Bhool Bhulaiya (2007), is scheduled for March 25. The movie stars Tabu, Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani.

K.G.F. Chapter 2, Prashant Neel’s sequel to the 2018 blockbuster K.G.F., will be out on April 14. Although the original film and the second part are in Kannada, the Hindi dubbed version made enough money for it to be regarded as a standalone Hindi release.

Also booking a slot well in advance is Ajay Devgn. His action adventure MayDay, in which he stars alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Rakul Preet Singh, will be released on April 29.

K.G.F. Chapter 2 (2022).

The second Heropanti film, starring Tiger Shroff, is aiming for May 6. Two Akshay Kumar starrers have also bagged slots in 2022. While Raksha Bandhan is aiming for August 11, Ram Setu is set for a November 2022 release. Ganpath, also starring Shroff alongside Kriti Sanon, is expected on December 23.

Some of the release dates are expected to change once the competition hots up. Producers and distributors will be keen on ensuring a minimum two-week run for films that have been sitting in the cans for months. The Hindi releases will also have to contend with Hollywood biggies, including the Marvel production The Eternals and the James Bond movie No Time to Die.

No Time To Die (2021).

A new source of rivalry is the streaming platform. Streamers such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and Zee5 emerged as alternate distributors when cinemas were shut.

The flow of films that skip the conventional distribution route and opt for a release on a streamer is unlikely to stop with the reopening of cinemas. Among the titles that will compete with theatrical releases over the next few months is Shoojit Sircar’s Udham Singh biopic Sardar Udham, Ram Madhvani’s thriller Dhamaka and Vishal Bhardwaj’s spy thriller Khufiya.

Sardar Udham (2021).

The rush of releases sparked off humorous reactions on Twitter. While one user quoted a line from Gangs of Wasseypur, another compared the activity to flash sales.