Theatres forced to shut down due to film postponements
G7 Multiplex’s Gaiety Cinema in Mumbai has been shut down temporarily since many film releases have been indefinitely postponed due to the surge in Omicron cases. Many other cinemas all across the country have followed suit with a few theatres in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh running with 50% capacity.
“For how long can we continue screening films that released three-four weeks back? Moreover, the turnout kept decreasing with each passing day. If new films don’t release, we’ll have to shut all other screens too,” says Manoj Desai, Executive Director of G7 Multiplex and Marathi Mandir Cinema, adding that there’s no contingency plan in hand.
BH Basha, an exhibitor based in Karnataka, believes closing down screens will not only affect the exhibition industry but the production and distribution sectors too. “Why would people continue watching the films that released in December in theatres when they can sit comfortably at home and watch new content on OTT platforms?” he says.
Better policies are needed for theatres, feels Meenu Singh, AGM, Legend Cinemas, whose Haryana outlet has been forced to shut down. She worries the lack of funds to support employees and the increase in maintenance cost for a closed screen: “If we shut screens, it sends a negative message to distributors and producers, who will restrict themselves from releasing their films. It will also deter new cinemas from unveiling.”
Rajender Singh Jyala, CPO, Inox Leisure Limited says all hopes were pinned on January which was supposed to see the release of RRR, Radhe Shyam and Valimai. “Across languages, we’ve done a business of over ₹1000 crore in December, which is as good as the per-pandemic era. We had a tremendous line-up this month and the box-office numbers too would have sky-rocketed January onwards,” he shares.
Theatres in West Bengal are currently screening Spider-Man: No Way Home, Pushpa: The Rise, 83 and a regional film. Worried that the situation will turn grimmer a fortnight later, Satadeep Saha, Director, SSR cinemas Pvt Limited, says, “If the government asks us to shut down, we will or else we’ll continue to run even if we have to with one show of each film so that we can maintain continuity.”