BY NATALIA NINGTHOUJAM
New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) With just a few hours left for cinema halls in India to open doors to the public on Friday after a long gap due to the pandemic, trade experts open up on the challenges facing the industry, safety measures to be taken and plans to bring back moviegoers to theatres.
Cinema halls were given the green signal to open from October 15, as per the guidelines of the Union Home Ministry and the Central government. While screening of films at some of the theatres on Thursday were dedicated to staff and family members, the general public can watch films on the big screen Friday onwards.
“Today (Thursday), we are doing a mock drill for opening and training our staff as to how to handle public from tomorrow in order to ensure smooth functioning,” Raj Kumar Mehrotra, general manager at the Capital’s Delite Cinema, told IANS, and shared that previously released movies like “Housefull 4”, “Street Dancer” and “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” will be screened once again.
But resumption of services and recovery will take a few weeks, said Ashish Saksena, COO (Cinemas), BookMyShow.
“After a long over six-month wait and no-show, we welcome the government’s decision to allow cinemas to reopen. Like any other sector, resumption of services and recovery will take a few weeks, however India is gearing up to step out and get back to its favourite entertainment experience,” Saksena told IANS.
As for ticketing trends, he said it is rather early to comment as “we await production houses’ announcements on releases for the festive season basis the opening up of key states such as Maharashtra and Telangana, amongst others”.
“While cinema screens across states that are opening up today, are going live in a staggered manner, additions are being made by the minute as different cinemas take their screens live across various localities and cities in each state,” he said.
Public’s safety is being kept in mind. To aid a safe and hassle-free movie-viewing experience, BookMyShow have been closely working with their cinema partners to put forth a comprehensive guide for cine-goers with the ‘My Safety First’ safety shield tag.
“This feature will enable them to see the various safety measures employed by cinemas and make an informed decision before they step out to watch their favourite films on the silver screen. ‘My Safety First’ will help create awareness amongst consumers on the various levels of safety and hygiene measures available across different cinemas listed on BookMyShow,” said Saksena.
According to a report, all the multiplex chains have faced huge losses during the shutdown, which began in March due to lockdown to curb coronavirus. Apparently, they were not in a position to pay the distributors their portion of shares for films released in January, February and half of March this year.
Asked if it is true and has this affected in providing content to theatres or not, Shreyans Hirawat, Director, NH Studioz told IANS: “There may be some outstandings from films released prior to the lockdown, and due to financial constraints and lack of business, but I feel this may not be the main reason as exhibitors or distributors do adjust amongst themselves. The main reason I feel is distributors fear the reaction of the audiences in the metro cities — whether they will come in or would they prefer to wait for the right time to enter the theatres.”
There is good news too. Trade analyst Komal Nahta tweeted on Wednesday: “In a relief to the entertainment industry in the state, the U.P. government has waived the licence fees of multiplexes and single-screen cinemas for 6 months (from April to September 2020) when cinemas were shut.”
Meanwhile, PVR Cinemas has announced its reopening strategy. Films will go live to be booked from Thursday night on their website and their app, and all other platforms.
The screening schedule will include a few new releases such as “My Spy” and “Ebhabei Golpo Hok” (Bengali), besides past blockbusters such as “Tanhaji”, “Thappad”, “Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan”, “John Wick 3”, “Hellaro” (Gujrati), “Vedalam” (Tamil), “Dharala Prabhu” (Tamil)”, “Din Ratrir Golpo (Bengali)” and “Carry On Jatta 2” (Punjabi).
Anand Pandit, who distributed “Section 375” in September 2019, is happy that the film will get another opportunity to connect with audiences. “The film was very well directed by Ajay Bahl and had powerful performances by Akshaye Khanna and Richa Chadha. It brought back the courtroom drama genre that we don’t get to see very often these days, and had very well-written dialogues,” he said.