AFTER THE Centre’s nod to cinema halls, multiplexes and theatres to open with up to 50 per cent seating capacity in areas outside containment zones from October 15, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) urged state governments, including Maharashtra, to restart operations. Currently, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have not allowed cinema halls to reopen until October 31.
On Thursday, state Cultural Affairs Minister Amit Deshmukh tweeted that the government was positive about reopening cinema halls and theatres, but its priority was to ensure the safety of residents amid the pandemic. The latest lockdown guidelines issued by the state Wednesday said cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres in malls and market places, auditoriums, and assembly halls will continue to remain closed.
Reeling under heavy losses as multiplexes and cinema halls have been shut since March, industry experts said the closure of cinema halls in Maharashtra beyond October 31 could impact new releases and the business.
“An urgent permission from the state governments to reopen cinemas in their states would go a substantial distance in ensuring that the cinema exhibition sector is able to quickly recover from the dire economic and financial impact of the epidemic,” an official statement issued by the MAI said.
On an average, Maharashtra’s contribution to the box office is around 30 per cent, with Nagpur and Mumbai being two big Hindi movie markets.
“The Unlock 5.0 guidelines have put rest to uncertainty. Producers can announce and plan theatre releases now. Initially, under the testing phase, as seen in the international market as well, many theatres and owners will start with old hit movies, until the new releases flow in. If the state continues with the closure for long period, it will impact the business,” Mohan Umrotkar, former CEO of Carnival Cinemas said.
Alok Tandon, CEO of INOX Leisure Ltd, said the new guidelines were “optimistic”. “This decision has ushered in a lot of optimism not just for the film industry and its audiences but also for the employees of the cinema exhibition sector. We are hopeful that the state governments will give us a green signal, and allow us to resume operations within the specified guidelines.”
At a meeting with representatives of multiplex and single-screen owners, theatre owners and film studio owners’ association, Deshmukh said he would discuss the matter with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat. “In the next six months, the emphasis will be on solving the problems of cinema owners who have faced huge losses,” he said.