Low footfall in theatres has meant no blockbusters, and without big releases, the crowds will not be back; add high costs and the spectre of a second lockdown, it is a deadly cocktail for theatres
Indoo Ki Jawani; (right) A Still from Tenet
The significant spike in COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country — combined with fears of a second round of lockdown in major cities — has come as a severe blow to exhibitors, who are already reeling from months of lockdown.
Gurmeet Seble, member of Delhi Single Screens Association, predicts that a second cinema shutdown may well be on the cards. Noting that most single screens across the capital have not reopened, he says, "Single screens will remain shut unless a big money-spinner is lined up for release. Producers have yet to announce big-ticket movies. We don't wish to keep theatres running when people are not showing up."
Theatres in Mumbai opened their doors on November 15 with Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari
Closer home in Mumbai, the scene is not starkly different. Manoj Desai, executive director, G7 multiplex, rues that the business has been abysmal since they lifted the curtain on November 15. "The public is afraid to step out. Since we have reopened the theatres, we have to pay for the electricity and the maintenance. In such a situation, when patrons don't turn up, the losses keep mounting. We have only 10 to 15 people per show. There are strong chances of a second shutdown. Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister, has stated that he will arrive at a decision in a few days. So, we have to wait and watch till then." Desai has lined up a meeting with his business partners today to chart the way forward.
The lack of new releases has added to the exhibitors' misery. After the Diwali offering Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari, Christopher Nolan's Tenet is slated to hit screens on December 4 and Kiara Advani's Indoo Ki Jawani, on December 11. However, Bollywood biggies have shied away from the marquee, resulting in a dry spell at the ticket counters. "We don't play Hollywood movies at Gaiety. However, given the current situation, we'll have no option but to run Tenet," says Desai.
Tenet and Indoo Ki Jawani will release on December 4 and 11 respectively
Trade analyst Atul Mohan weighs in, saying, "Regardless of whether a lockdown is imposed or not, cinemas have started shutting down. Most multiplexes have closed down two to three screens, keeping only one or two of them operational." Mohan adds that a second round of shutdown will be catastrophic for the exhibition and distribution sector.
Mumbai theatres reopened on November 15 after the shutdown
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