19th October 2020

Will Covid Kill The Theatre Business?

The  disastrous re-opening  of  movie theatres  across the country has  put a huge question mark on  the  future of movie theatres in  India.Sources say  if the attendance remains as thin as it is, theatres may have to shut down again.To make  matters worse, theatres have  no new content to show.

“Almost all the new films have gone to the digital  platform.And  the  digital platform  refuses  to share  content with us,” says  a top personnel of a multiplex chain. “The  initial plan was to release OTT films Gulabo Sitabo, Gunjan Saxena , Dil Bechara and Khali Peeli. But the  OTT  platforms  have refused to share the content with us. So until Maharshtra  re-opens  theatres, we are  left screening  releases  from the  pre-Covid  repertoire. No one is  coming to theatres  to watch Thappad and  Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan,” the  source rues, adding that their  chain may have to shut again, until  audiences  feel confident  enough to return.

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Bengal which opened theatres  a  fortnight  ahead  of  other states stares at  empty seats as  the State  prepares  to release  6 new Bengali films  for Durga Puja,

 Bengal’s  top director Srijit Mukherjee admits the  re-opening  of theatres in  Kolkata has been underwhelming. “I think it’s  the fear psychosis. The  attendance at  movie theatres won’t get better  until a Covid vaccine comes  out.”

Trade analyst Amod Mehra describes  the reopening of theatres as  disastrous. “Until a big film is released , all movie exhibitors  will suffer unanimously.”

Maverick film producer  of  Applause Entertainment and media baron Sameer  Nair feels it’s only a  matter of time before audiences  return to movie theatres. “The slow return to theatres is to be expected, a combination of lingering fears and  movie re-runs  reduce the audience draw. But I don’t think too much should be read into these initial numbers. Over the next few months, as everything gradually opens up, people will increasing return to their movie-going ways. The most important thing for theatres is simultaneous opening up nationwide and brand-new blockbuster product…to bring the audiences back and to rebuild a viable business model for producers and exhibitors alike.”  

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