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50% of India’s operational screens to reopen by Friday

Theatres have been shut in India since April when the second covid wave hit the country and were gradually permitted to re-open only recently.Premium
Theatres have been shut in India since April when the second covid wave hit the country and were gradually permitted to re-open only recently.

  • Maharashtra has still not allowed cinemas to resume, but theatres in states like Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab will start showcasing Hollywood film 'Mortal Kombat' beginning 30 July

New Delhi: Around 4,000 or half of India’s operational movie screens will reopen this Friday as the first batch of new films arrives in theatres after a nearly four-month gap. Theatres have been shut in India since April when the second covid wave hit the country and were gradually permitted to re-open only recently.

Maharashtra has still not allowed cinemas to resume, but theatres in states like Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab will start showcasing Hollywood film Mortal Kombat beginning 30 July. Five small Telugu films—Ishq, Thimmarusu, Narasimhapuram, Parigettu Prigettu and Trayam will also be released in their native states.

As of now, Telangana is the only state to allow 100% seating capacity in theatres.

“The process of cleaning and sanitization had already begun in cinemas whose state governments had granted permits. While Hindi films are waiting for Maharashtra to reopen, we can expect Hollywood to help start the machinery meanwhile," film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. While martial arts fantasy Mortal Kombat had released in southern states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in April, it will now screen in northern states including Delhi and NCR (National Capital Region) that permitted cinemas to reopen earlier this week.

“We are looking at resuming our operations in select cinemas in states, that have allowed the cinemas to operate, on 30 July, and constantly review the situation every week and plan a well-planned resumption of operations across the country based on readiness," an INOX spokesperson said.

PVR Cinemas too has confirmed reopening this Friday in states and union territories where multiplexes have been granted permits. Apart from special offers for vaccinated guests, the chain will allow for private screenings where the entire auditorium can be booked by a single group, to ensure safety. "We are quite hopeful for Maharashtra to re-open and once Hindi films, which account for the larger share of film exhibition revenues due to their wider viewership in the country, get announced and start to hit the market, the movie-going culture is all set to resume among the masses," Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Ltd said.

To be sure, Warner Bros, producers of Mortal Kombat, have already slated other titles for the coming weeks to keep the momentum going—their action adventure The Suicide Squad will arrive on 5 August, the first Hollywood film since the pandemic to release in Indian theatres the same day as its international release.

Horror flick The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It has been scheduled for the 13th, action flick Fast & Furious 9 for the 19th, and animation comedy The Boss Baby: Family Business for 10 September. Other Hollywood titles including Promising Young Woman (6 August), Old (13 August), The Croods: A New Age (27 August), Nobody (27 August) and The Forever Purge (17 September) have also locked dates.

As far as local films go, Bollywood producers may still be taking it slow given that Maharashtra, their biggest market is yet to reopen cinemas, but Punjabi film Puaada has confirmed a release on 12 August.

“We’re waiting for Maharashtra to come on board for Bollywood to be able to swing back to action," said Pranav Garg, managing director, Maya Palace, Muzaffarnagar whose cinema has been operational since 5 July and has been playing older releases like Mumbai Saga. “The idea is to bring to people’s knowledge that we’re open and to keep the staff on its toes right now. Audiences are keen to come back to theatres for new offerings and we’ve been getting multiple enquiries for F9 and KGF: Chapter 2," said Garg adding that cinemas are hopeful of an Independence Day release for Akshay Kumar’s Bellbottom.

However, not all cinemas are on board yet despite government permissions. Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said theatre owners are aware there will be no traction for older content. “Everyone is waiting for the big tent-pole Bollywood film. Plus, many cinemas are scared of having to close down again because of the third wave, which would be a terrible setback. And if multiplexes reopen, they would have to immediately start paying rent," Pillai pointed out.

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