Unlock 3.0: Cinemas hope to get back to business in August but with caution

As film theatres get set to restart next month, we talk to multiplex owners and industry insiders as to how they are prepping for it, and what content will be shown on the big screen.
Cinemas owners are hopeful of getting permissions starting August as part of the Unlock 3.0 relaxations by the government.
Cinemas owners are hopeful of getting permissions starting August as part of the Unlock 3.0 relaxations by the government.
Updated on Jul 28, 2020 06:34 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByJuhi Chakraborty

After close to almost four months of being non-operational, cinemas in the country are now looking at reopening next month after the Multiplex Association of India (MAI)’s second list of a much-detailed SOPs (standard operating procedures) was received positively by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Cinema owners are hopeful of getting permissions starting August as part of the Unlock 3.0 relaxations by the government.

“This is a far more detailed version that we submitted to the government and the response has been very positive. They had a few questions and we did clarify what needed to be. We have requested the government to allow us to reopen along with Unlock 3. So, I hope that by this month or latest by the beginning of September, theatres will be up and running,” shares Kamal Gianchandani, CEO PVR Pictures Ltd. 

The new set of SOPs submitted earlier this month include provision of stagger show timings and show entry in a manner not more than once screen starts the show at same time, social distancing to be ensured while booking of seats by ensuring at least 1 seat between each group/ family who have booked tickets together, use of paper tickets to be discontinued, ensuring fresh air intake in the ventilation and the customers are required to wear a facemask mandatorily throughout the visit. Even PPE Kits, containing gloves, masks and sanitizers will be kept available for sale, at reasonable prices.

Devang Sampat, CEO, Cinepolis, says, “This is a detailed version of what we had submitted before, normal sanitsation is something that we are reinforcing and documenting well like how to we operate all point of sale, deep cleaning of seats, washrooms and the whole area. About 70 percent screens that we operate are at malls, which are open, so we don’t see any other issue arising from the state government once the centre gives a go-ahead. Other than that, we will abide by the local restriction on time and days.” 

As of now the release dates of only two films have been announced --- Sooryavanshi on Diwali and ’83 on Christmas. So, will there be other films which will release in the next month when operations resumes?

“There are a quite a few films which are 80-90 percent ready and which have decided to not take the OTT route. But first we need to open and once that happens, soon the released will start, but slowly. We are prepared and keen as ever to welcome back guests to our 626 screens,” explains Rajeev Patni,COO, INOXLeisure Ltd.

Calling it a much-needed relief for the sector, film exhibitor Akshaye Rathi says that it is time for cinemas to make up for the losses that they incurred over the last four months as well as the additional cost of deploying those sanitization measures now. However, he adds, “Not all cinemas will open all at once. Many independently owned- cinemas might just open up to two weeks before some big releases. Right now it will take a month and half for the consumption cycle to start kicking in again and people to start getting sued to coming to cinemas.” 

Winning back the confidence of the customers is what is the priority on theatre owners as they feel that to move from the concept of total social distancing to zero social distancing will be gradual. We will make sure that there is safety but it does not interfere with the joy of movie going experience,” says Gianchandani, while adding that he is not worried about people not willing to shell out ticket prices in this climate.

“Barring a few cinemas, our average ticket price is only Rs 200, which should not be a problem,” he opines.

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Sunday, November 28, 2021