'The second half of 2022 definitely looks stronger for Bollywood.'
The show goes on in the Hindi film industry: It is steadily coming out of the deep freeze after slumping during the pandemic.
Hindi language films, including those from Bollywood and dubs of South Indian and Hollywood movies, contributed Rs 1,716 crore (Rs 17.16 billion) to the domestic box office in the first half of the 2022 calendar year, shows data compiled after speaking to trade analysts and distributors.
The amount is just 20 per cent lower than the Rs 2,138 crore (Rs 21.38 billion) collected in the first half of 2019 and before the pandemic struck India.
The first halves of 2020 and 2021 are not comparable, as theatres were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The pandemic appeared to be weighing on the minds of film producers who are pushing more movies this year than in 2019.
As many as 33 Hindi language films were released between January and June this year, compared to 31 in 2019.
Eight films did business of more than Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) in 2019, compared to five films in the first half this year.
The big hits this year included Gangubai Kathiawadi, The Kashmir Files, RRR, KGF: Chapter 2 and Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2.
Some big hits in the first half of 2019 included Kabir Singh, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Bharat, Kesari, Total Dhamaal and Gully Boy.
This year southern stars Yash (who starred in KGF 2), Ram Charan and N T Rama Rao Jr (of RRR fame) became household names nationwide thanks to the success of their movies.
At the same time, the lines between Bollywood and regional cinema blurred as Bollywood actors Alia Bhatt, Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt featured in southern films.
Bollywood's Kartik Aaryan emerged as a bankable star after tasting success with Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2.
Bhatt is a go-to actor for film-makers across industries.
Her movie Gangubai Kathiawadi made a brisk Rs 132 crore (Rs 1.32 billion) in box-office collections, according to trade analysts. RRR's Hindi version collected Rs 265 crore (Rs 2.65 billion).
"The line-up for the second half of the 2022 calendar year is very strong with Hindi films such as Shamshera, Laal Singh Chaddha and Brahmastra ready for release in the next three months," said Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer at Inox Leisure, a multiplex chain.
Shamshera, an action drama starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt, will release on July 22.
Brahmastra is a fantasy film and features Kapoor and Bhatt; it will be released on September 9.
A crime thriller titled Vikram Vedha, starring Hrithik Roshan, is awaiting release on September 30.
Kabhi Eid Kabhi Diwali, starring Salman Khan, will be released in December.
"The second half of 2022 definitely looks stronger for Bollywood," said Rahul Kadbet, vice-president, programming, Carnival Cinemas, a multiplex chain.
"The first half of the year did have its fair share of challenges including the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which impacted the first month of 2022. Hindi releases began happening from February onwards," Kadbet said.
"Also, the Hindi movie line-up was not strong enough to counter the wave of action entertainers from the south. But, the second half of the year has a good line-up of Hindi films, which should help business," he added.
Shyam Shroff, chairman, Shringar Films, a Mumbai-based film distribution company, said he is hopeful about Bollywood after the series of flops in recent months.
"Bollywood is a significant contributor to the Indian box office. Its underperformance in recent months was a cause for concern. Certainly, film distributors and producers would be relieved that the trend is changing for Bollywood now," Shroff said.
The Multiplex Association of India recently said it expected the financial year 2022-2023 to end on a strong note for the industry, led by pent-up demand.
While southern cinema and Hollywood did well this year, experts say Bollywood's revival will aid peak performance of the industry in FY23.