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MUMBAI (Reuters) - Bollywood is no longer scared of cricket.
Five years after the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament, the world's largest film industry is confident enough to release big-ticket movies during the much hyped domestic cricket season, citing cricket fatigue and India's dismal performance overseas.
Bollywood has traditionally avoided movie releases in the March to April period when students are busy with school examinations and families stay away from cinemas.
The IPL, which runs from April 4 to May 27 this year, seemed to sound the death knell for films with its impressive debut in 2008, thanks to its TV-friendly format, cheerleaders and glamorous team owners.
But the league's ratings are down in 2012. Several big-ticket Bollywood films will open in cinemas during the tournament, and those that have released are doing good business.
"The IPL is no longer something that will deter us from releasing a film during that period," Vivek Krishnani, head of distribution, marketing and syndication at Fox Star India told Reuters.
"The novelty has worn off and there is cricket fatigue, so it is no longer a threat."
Krishnani's company released the 3D version of James Cameron's "Titanic" on April 6, the week the IPL kicked off, and the film earned more than 60 million rupees in its opening weekend, an impressive figure for a Hollywood film in India.
"Titanic" opened alongside "Housefull 2", a slapstick comedy with an ensemble cast, a film panned by critics but a hit with audiences, grossing close to 800 million rupees so far.
"If a bad film is also making money, the IPL is obviously not making too much of a dent," trade analyst Vajir Singh told Reuters.
That wasn't always the case. Prime-time IPL matches, glamorous after-parties televised live and extensive media coverage lured family audiences and kept them glued to TV sets.
But last year's sleeper hit, the romantic comedy "Tanu Weds Manu" opened during the cricket season.
"The success of ‘Tanu Weds Manu' showed that there was scope for a movie to do well during what appeared to be all-encompassing events like the World Cup and IPL," Singh said.
Cinemas, which used to screen IPL matches during the summer, now say they will show only the last few matches.
"Occupancy for movies has been very good, even on weekdays," Prakhar Joshi of theatre chain PVR told Reuters.
"Movies like ‘Housefull 2' and ‘Titanic' have done well, so we see no reason for this to be a weak quarter."