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Thursday, September 23, 2021

‘Where are the movies, the people?… We need relief on power, water bills to survive’

As states relax lockdown curbs, including for movie halls, allowing them to operate at 50 per cent capacity, D’Souza, who is also vice-president of the South India Film Federation, says only further concessions and 100% occupancy can keep the sector afloat.

Written by Darshan Devaiah BP |
September 5, 2021 3:49:37 am
‘Took loan, spent lakhs, bought new speakers for the hall. Then, second wave hit.’ (Express photo)

How has the last year been for business?

I have been running the theatre for nearly five decades now, starting in 1960. Never have I stopped operating the theatre or made losses like now. We have not had consistent business for almost two years. It is going to be very hard to recover from this. While my theatre is shut, I still have to pay 20 employees Rs 3-4 lakh every month as salary.

Did you expect things to be this bad?

No. After the first wave, in 2020, I took a loan and spent lakhs to renovate the theatre. I bought new speakers and changed the interiors. But unfortunately, the second wave hit in March and there was another lockdown. Now the government has allowed us to reopen, but where are the movies and where are the people? If it continues this way, our business will collapse. The government has waived property tax for us, which has been very helpful, but we need concessions on water and electricity bills for movie theatres to survive.

Why aren’t you screening films now?

There are many movies ready to be released but the big producers have made it clear that they don’t want to release them in theatres unless the government allows 100% occupancy. Even though Karnataka has allowed 50% per cent occupancy, I have not opened my theatre. We have to wait, but I am confident we will survive and start our service soon.

Have OTT platforms affected business?  

People like to watch their favourite stars on the big screen. OTT might have been a hit during Covid times, but after that everyone will come to theatres. As of now we have no plans to screen any movies. We are waiting for good Kannada and Tamil movies, since the audience here really enjoys watching them. The last film that we screened was the Kannada movie Yuvaratna in April this year, just before the lockdown following the second wave.

Have people reached out to you to open the theatre?

For now, the confidence among the audiences is low, people are unsure about coming to the theatre to watch movies. But once 100% occupancy is allowed, we will open with all precautions and we are confident that people will come.

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