The Indian government announced late on Wednesday that cinema halls and theaters will be allowed to reopen starting October 15. The reopening of halls comes as a relief to thousands of people working in these sectors as the businesses had been shut for past six months, in wake of the ongoing pandemic. The industry has welcomed the decision but theater owners are aware that it may take months for the business to reach a point of no-loss.
General Manager of Delite Cinemas (a single-screen theater in the national capital of Delhi) Raj Kumar Mehrotra says the cinemas halls will have to open with films like Mulan as no new movie has been slated to theatrical release in October., “It will take at least a few weeks before even the allowed 50 per cent capacity is full for shows. Perhaps by Diwali, people may start coming out for entertainment.” He adds that it will not be before April 2021 that theaters can even imagine of breaking even.
Owners of single-screen theaters in smaller cities and towns of country insist non-availability of new films for release will be an additional challenge. They plan to run old classics and recent hits till they receive new films. “We have had salaries to pay for past six months with no income at all. Even the smallest of business will help us improve the situation at this point,” says a theatre-owner.
Welcoming the move, COO of Eros Motion Pictures Shikha Kapur says, “The pandemic has led to a surge of content consumption across genres and platforms and this is a hugely encouraging indicator for content creators and providers. Cinema is and will always remain an expression of creativity and imagination and we look forward to fostering a stronger bond with our audiences. Their safety and well-being will always be our first priority and we are sure that cinemas will follow the strictest protocols to ensure that our audiences can safely enjoy the movie going experience.”
The Multiplex Association of India thanked the government saying, “We are committed to ensure a safe, secure and hygienic cinema-going experience for the movie lovers of our country, as always, we would continue to assign top-most priority to the health and well-being of our guests and employees.”
Managing Director of Carnival Cinemas
PV Sunil also welcomed the decision. Happy over the number of people to be allowed to be seated in a single auditorium, he says, “I would say this is the right time to open up with Diwali around the corner. 50 per cent capacity is better than what we had thought would be allowed earlier. In fact, we had been proposing a 50 per cent capacity. It is in keeping up with the norm of every other industry.”
While the state of West Bengal has allowed opening of cinema halls from October 1, Mr Sunil adds that many state governments are yet to give a go-ahead. ““While couple of state governments are yet to give a go ahead on the reopening of theaters, we are likely to open all the major properties in other states in the stipulated time.”
Safety measures and their impact
All theater chains have taken their ticketing systems online. Auditoriums will have to be sanitized after each show. This is a major factor that shall bring down the number of shows that can be run in an auditorium as well.
Theaters will be able to run three shows in a day, as opposed to the normal shows per auditorium. This is because sanitization shall take at least half an hour after each show ends.
Films to Look Forward To
N o releases have been announced post the government order. However, Akshay Kumar’s Laxxmi Bomb, slated for a direct-to-digital release on November 9, will also release in theaters world over. Mr Kumar has suggested that he is open t releasing the movie in Indian theaters as well.
Other than that, Indian fans can hope to watch Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi, Varun Dhawan’s Coolie No 1, Ranveer Singh-Deepika Padukone-starrer 83 and Ali Fazal’s Death On The Nile in theaters soon.