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Movie theatres in India may still be some time away from reopening, but cinema owners see promise in countries that have reopened and are releasing their first batch of films.

In Spain, the family drama sequel Padre No Hay Mas Que Uno 2 (Father There Is Only One 2), released at the end of July, grossed about $5.5 million in less than two weeks, according to a report by trade website Box Office India. The original, Padre No Hat Mas Que Uno, when it opened last year, had set the cash registers ringing in Spain, but made only $5.1 million over the same period of time.

Box Office India said the numbers are 8% better than what would ordinarily be expected with the kind of limited screen count and restricted seating capacity that Spain is currently operating with.

The European country is emerging out of one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, having seen its health system collapse in April and May but the pent-up demand for content is evident among audiences despite the fear of stepping out.

Meanwhile, Korean film Deliver Us From Evil notched up the highest single-day gross since cinemas reopened in South Korea earlier this month, making $4.30 million. Playing in 1,997 screens, with 11,110 shows screened, the film sold 565,762 tickets, averaging 51 tickets sold per show, which box office reporting service Cinetrak said is a very healthy occupancy level, considering the seating restriction applied.

France, too, is preparing for box office revival with comedy drama How To Be A Good Wife drawing some 20,000 spectators across 600 screens, which is equivalent to a box office of around $154,000 in June, according to a report by British film magazine Screen International. Biopic De Gaulle came in second with around 10,000 admissions, for a box office of close to $68,000.

“The initial figures [from cinemas that are reopening around the world] are extremely encouraging," said film distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi. Adding that the trend of taking films directly to digital may have come up in a big way during the covid-19 lockdown, Rathi said that is, at most, a quick fix for the crisis on hand.

“In the long run, only cinemas can provide a true-blue immersive experience to audiences," he said.

Hugely disappointed by the government’s decision to keep cinemas under lockdown in the guidelines released at the end of July, theatre owners in India are now eyeing September as possible date for reopening and the Gandhi Jayanti holiday weekend in October as the big test that can finally help them bounce back to business. With movie theatres shut since the middle of March, India’s theatre business has lost over Rs1,000 crore in the first six months of 2020.

“Until now, most global cinema chains were doing poor numbers in terms of occupancy, primarily because of old content. New content may augur well for Indian exhibitors, too, if Sooryavanshi and '83 were to come by November or December," said Karan Taurani, research analyst at Elara Capital Ltd referring to the films starring Akshay Kumar and Ranveer Singh respectively. Film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar also said India will need a big tent-pole film to bring audiences back to theatres, although the first signs from global box office are encouraging.

“We expect cinemas to open by the first week of September in India wherein the initial few weeks will be poor for occupancy, but the festive season will drive some good footfalls," Taurani added.

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