NEW DELHI: The Multiplex Association of India has expressed its displeasure over no clarity or direction from the government on reopening of theatres even under the latest unlocking guidelines.
In a statement on Thursday, the body said it feels dismayed that cinemas and multiplexes continue to remain in the list of prohibited activities even as a significant part of the economy is being opened up, including domestic travel, offices, high street, markets and shopping complexes.
“The Association finds it highly demotivating and disheartening when in fact, cinemas and multiplexes can become an example of how social distancing guidelines and crowd control can be best exercised in a safe and planned manner," the statement added.
Compared to the unorganised retail and shops that have been opened up, multiplexes and cinema are part of the organised sector, playing hosts to "revenue paying" customers only and hence, in a better position to limit crowds unlike marketplaces and deploy all the mechanisms and guidelines for crowd control and social distancing, it said.
The body has further pointed out that globally, countries like France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Austria, Hong Kong, UAE, US, and more recently Belgium and Malaysia have opened cinemas to the public with implementation of the highest degree of safety protocols and seen a warm response by audiences.
The multiplex industry in India employs more than 2,00,000 people directly, the statement adds and accounts for nearly 60% of revenues of the film business.
“The livelihoods of more than a million people – right from spot boys to makeup artists, musicians, designers, technicians and engineers to cinema employees to directors and actors, hinges on the survival of Indian cinema. The lockdown has literally brought the entire industry to a standstill with losses mounting every passing day. An early decision to allow cinemas to open up will only help the mobilization of resources in the film industry’s ecosystem and lead to gradual resurrection," the statement adds.
Even after opening up, multiplexes anticipate at least a period of three to six months before things return to normal. Challenges during this period will include programming of new content that will take some time to kick in while movie buffs are expected to take a cautious approach before stepping out of home.
“These are real challenges that the industry will have to overcome and we believe together, with the support of the government, we will be able to overcome them," the MAI said.
The reaction comes in the wake of several big and mid-sized films going directly to digital platforms as the future of cinemas remains uncertain. Disney+ Hotstar has grabbed titles such as Akshay Kumar's Laxmmi Bomb, Ajay Devgn's Bhuj: The Pride of India and Alia Bhatt-starrer Sadak 2, while Karan Johar’s Gunjan Saxena- The Kargil Girl has gone to Netflix and several other titles to Amazon Prime Video.