3 min read.Updated: 30 Sep 2020, 10:34 PM ISTLata Jha
Considering cinemas are a state subject, it remains to be seen how many states approve their resumption
The other big crisis remains that of content as all films, which were complete and ready for release, have been acquired by streaming services
New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday has allowed movie theatres to reopen with 50% capacity from 15 October in areas that fall outside containment zones. The SOPs (standard operating procedures) for the same will be issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons and entertainment parks have also been permitted to open, subject to SOPs to be issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare respectively.
The latest guidelines also say that social, academic, sports, entertainment, cultural, religious, political functions and other congregations that had already been permitted with a ceiling of 100 people, may now extend to more people outside Covid-19 containment zones, if states and union territories wish to do so.
In closed spaces, however, a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be allowed, with a ceiling of 200 people. Wearing of face masks, maintaining social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and use of hand wash or sanitizer will be mandatory. In open spaces, keeping the size of the ground or space in view, and with strict observance of social distancing and mandatory wearing of face masks, there should be provisions for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer, according to the guidelines.
To be sure, the theatrical market in India has incurred losses of almost ₹3,000 crore across languages in the six months that cinemas have remained shut since March, trade experts say. Of these, Bollywood or the Hindi film industry accounts for around ₹2,000 crore. The country has already lost 12% of its movie screen count over the covid-19 pandemic as theatres, especially single screens, stared at bleak futures with salaries and fixed incomes mounting and no foreseeable income. Movie theatres have been one of the first ones to shut and last to re-open in the country as a result of the covid-19 pandemic.
However, challenges still remain.
“Theatres have to not only ensure all protocols are in place but wait for individual state approvals too," film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar pointed out. Given that cinema is a state subject, it remains to be seen whether all states will permit reopenings individually. As of now, West Bengal is the only state to have issued individual orders. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra said the cinemas will remain shut till 31 October.
The other big crisis remains that of content as all films that were complete and ready for release, at least in Hindi, have already been acquired by video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar. Hollywood has some offerings--Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and the new James Bond film, No Time To Die, have both committed to theatrical release in India, dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu besides English. But trade experts say big commercial films with saleable names will be required to bring people back to theatres. As of now, Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi and sports drama ’83 have committed to a Diwali and Christmas release respectively.
“There may be regional films available but Hindi content will have to be explored," Johar added.
The Multiplex Association of India welcomed the decision.
“Millions of movie lovers, employees of the cinema exhibition sector, along with the entire film industry were eagerly awaiting this announcement. We are committed to ensure a safe, secure and a hygienic cinema going experience for the movie lovers of our country, as always, we would continue to assign top-most priority to the health and well-being of our guests and employees," it said in a statement.
An urgent permission from the state governments to re-open cinemas in their states would go a substantial distance in ensuring that the cinema exhibition sector is able to quickly recover from the dire economic and financial impact of the pandemic, the association added.
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