Home >Opinion >Quick Edit >Lights, camera, inaction!

It’s no surprise that the Multiplex Association of India finds itself in a fix. Its members are in despair. Even as high streets, regular old markets and shopping complexes have slowly opened up over the past month, film exhibition units that house multiple movie theatres have had to stay firmly shut. It’s too risky from a covid perspective, believe most state administrations.

Since the start of India’s lockdown on 25 March, more than 3,000 multiplexes across India have been idle. Proposals have apparently been made for them to open on a limited occupancy basis, with frequent sanitization of halls, strict entry screening, other hygiene protocols, and alternate seats kept empty. Perhaps tickets would need to be sold exclusively on the internet, and snacks counters kept shut. All of this would put pressure on the operating margins of these theatres, but then, ticket prices would probably go up as well.

Whether multiplexes can attract patrons is another issue. Entertainment has been booming on over the top (OTT) platforms, some of which have almost doubled their viewership in the past few months. Producers have started releasing movies on these apps, taking away the first-day-first-show monopoly that theatres once had. The film industry seems to have sensed that people are unlikely to return to movie halls in large enough numbers even if they do reopen. After all, a brief visit to a mall or even a quick meal at an eatery may seem safe, but being in an enclosed space with lots of strangers for two hours or more is an entirely different level of risk.

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