By Ahana Bhattacharya
Mumbai, March 18 (IANS) In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, when cinema halls and multiplexes across the country have been shut down following the state government’s order, movie buffs are left with no choice but to remain confined at home and binge on digital content or watch television. While theatre owners naturally suffer losses, there is yet another section that has been badly hit. These are people whose livelihood depends indirectly on cinema halls.
Small business owners who have shops and eateries outside theatres that target the audience about to enter a show or leaving it, are left with little or no sales. With the halls shut, the entire vicinity is deserted and these small shopkeepers are either forced to shut shops or wait helplessly for a customer or two to turn up.
“My daily customer count has gone down by 60 to 70 percent. My customers are mostly the ones coming out of the theatre, as my shop is located exactly outside the ticket counter. Mostly, kids and students come to my shop to buy caps, belts, sunglasses and earphones, but now there are hardly any customers,” Abdul Azeez, an accessories shop owner outside Mira Road’s Rassaz Multiplex, told IANS.
Of course, the businessman has been quick to adapt. Azeez has started selling masks because roght now no other product seems to be selling. “I sell masks as cheap as Rs 30. Only masks have been selling over the past few days. There is no other sale for other products.”
Similar is the story with eateries outside theatres. With the police closing most eateries in the area, these shops are suffering huge losses. Even while the shutdown was yet to become official, with no shows in the theatres, there was no spillover customer base for the eateries, who would walk in for a quick bite or a sip of soft drink.
Pappu owns a small eatery outside the theatre, where he sells sandwiches, burgers and pizzas at a very cheap price. While the police has closed most eateries now, he opens his shop for a few hours in the evenings. “The policewalas have ordered us to keep our shops shut. I have opened at 8pm for two hours only. The public is scared owing to coronavirus and nobody comes to my shop now. But if I don’t take a chance and open my shop for a few hours, what will my family eat? On top that, I am having to pay all the staff working at my shop, even though I am not earning a single rupee,” he said.
The eatery owner further informed that while his daily requirement of chicken for the shop is almost 20 kilos, these days if he orders even five kilos, he has to take some of it home or try selling it off.
While Coronavirus is indeed a big threat but in a country like India, the bigger concern for the small-level business that banks on the cinema trade to thrive is sustenance. These businessmen are just hoping for things to get back to normalcy while they wait behind their empty counters with patience and helplessness.