Lockdown Effect: Single screen theatres to fold by year end?

Updated: Jun 22, 2020, 07:27 IST | Mohar Basu, Uma Ramasubramanian | Mumbai

Four months into the lockdown, and with cinemas unlikely to open before October, owners and trade pundits fear single screens may fold by year-end

Cinema owners are counting on Sooryavanshi and 83 to lure audiences
Cinema owners are counting on Sooryavanshi and 83 to lure audiences

Cinemas across Europe and the US may be opening their doors again, but a big-screen date with their favourite star remains elusive for the Indian audience. Even as the government is easing the restrictions in phases, reopening of theatres is likely to be among the last steps in the 'Unlock India' plan. The theatre business, currently in its fourth month of shutdown, has suffered a blow, with the single screens being the worst hit. Three landmark movie halls — Shanthala and Padma in Mysuru, and Maharani in Chennai — have bitten the dust in the past three months.'

With trade circles suggesting that cinemas will not re-open before October, trade analyst Akshaye Rathi worries that "about 250 to 300 single screens may be wiped out". He rues, "There's no support from any quarter, be it from the film industry or the government. By October, the number of theatres downing its shutters may touch 1000-plus." Rathi adds that problems will continue to plague the humble single screens even after they resume operations. "The initial expenditure will be way higher than the revenue coming in," says Rathi, adding that they will witness high footfalls only when big-ticket offerings hit the marquee.

Gaiety-Galaxy in Bandra

With rent, maintenance charges and staff salaries, the theatre owners' expenses have been rising with no revenue to offset them. Manoj Desai, executive director, Gaiety-Galaxy, notes that the government has offered little relief. "The government should do away with GST. We are paying the property tax, BMC tax and electricity charges. Ideally, these should be excused for the moment."

mid-day reached out to Regal Cinema owner Kamal Taraporewala, who declined to comment on the losses incurred due to the lockdown. Since 2018, rumours have been abuzz about the Colaba theatre struggling to stay afloat.

Regal Cinema

Gurmeet Singh Seble, MD, Seble Cinemas in Delhi, adds, "The Shaheen Bagh protests continued from December to February, and the lockdown came into effect in March. So, single screens here were affected even before the pandemic."

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