Delhi and Mumbai theatres cry for help: Why be unfair to us, they question
People are out and about after lockdown lifted, back in malls, restaurants, travelling to hill stations. Life seems to be getting back on track for almost every sector, except theatres. They are yet to get the permission to open in key Bollywood markets such as Maharashtra and Delhi, and people in this sector are not too happy about it. Especially now that even stadiums have been given the go ahead in the Capital.
Rajender Singh Jyala, chief programming officer, INOX, says while a few states have allowed theatres to reopen, nothing major can be done until the big markets do the same.
“Maharashtra makes up for almost 30-35 percent of Bollywood’s collections. Till the time these major centres are closed, nothing can happen. It is high time theatres are allowed to reopen. In Delhi, barring theatres, everything is open- malls, markets. We are really surprised. At the same time, we are hopeful that by next week, we are allowed,” he says.
From an exhibitor’s point of view, Akshaye Rathi asserts that the treatment to theatres has been a bit ‘unfair’ compared to other sectors.
He also asks employment to be considered. “This sector generates that, and goes into lakhs and lakhs of people. There are so many of those who are the only earning members of their family. It has been pretty brutal for film exhibition sector. All other sectors, like restaurants, atleast can do home deliveries and function some or the other way. They have some income, if you measure against that barometer,” he quips.
A lot of hopes were being pinned on the big films to revive the theatre business, including Bell Bottom, Sooryavanshi, Laal Singh Chadha, Maidaan, and ‘83. However, with no status on theatres reopening, their theatre owners are not sure about what the future holds.
This leads to a feeling of ‘helplessness’, as Manoj Desai, executive director of G7 Multiplex, also puts it. “Kya karein, we are losing a lot. We are paying property tax, water tax, minimum electricity bill. There is no incoming, all outgoing. It is totally not justified. Hum toh 50 percent seating capacity mein bhi taiyaar hain, authorities soch hi nahi rahe, hamari taraf dekh hi nahi rahe,” he rues. Desai adds that there have been multiple meetings of the multiplex and single screen associations, but nothing has happened yet.
Arguing that in fact places like malls and flights are even more risky is trade expert Atul Mohan. He says a ‘fear factor’ has been generated. “Cinemas are closed first, and then not given permissions to reopen, this has made people believe that cinema halls are a dangerous place. Restaurants and planes have the same seating conditions, in fact the latter is more cramped. Theatres still have some space,” he says.