New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs has outlined a call to be taken on the possible reopening of cinema halls in the third phase of a new plan that attempts to kickstart the economy post the Covid-19 lockdown. The decision will be taken over the next month based on the government's assessment of the situation by then. Movie theatres across the country have been shut since the middle of March, with the film business losing ₹80-90 crore per week with cinemas remaining shut ever since. Irrfan Khan-starrer Angrezi Medium stands out as the last film to hit screens.
Apart from cinema halls, dates for restarting international air travel, metro rail services, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls, social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other congregations will also be decided in this third phase.
Given that the ministry has allowed the reopening of shopping malls from 8 June apart from religious places, hospitality and restaurant services, multiplexes, which form a crucial part of these malls, should brace for an opening too.
According to media reports earlier this month, India’s largest multiplex chain, PVR Cinemas expects movie theatres to reopen in a staggered manner by the end of July or beginning of August.
“A lot of films have bunched up together which are ready and even post-production is over so I believe they will start releasing 15 July onwards," PVR chairman Ajay Bijli has been quoted as saying according to media reports.
Further, PVR has added that it may take multiplex chains like theirs some time to train staff and put adequate hygiene measures in place. It has plans for social distancing measures with alternate seats allotted to viewers, contactless ticketing and so on. But cinema halls should open soon after malls, which have strong dependence on the former.
Meanwhile, a bunch of recent films such as Shoojit Sarkar’s Gulabo Sitabo and Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi: Human Computer have opted for a direct-to-digital release instead of waiting for theatres to reopen, invoking the wrath of exhibitors across the country. Anticipating staggered opening across different states and low occupancies in the initial weeks, filmmakers have been fearful of incurring more losses than they already have. Multiplex chains, on the other hand, have made several pleas to them to wait for theatres to reopen instead of opting for direct-to-digital releases as the exhibition sector witnesses zero revenues.