With the go ahead given by the Center for multiplexes and cinema halls to reopen from October 15, the respective state governments are yet to take the final call. The Central government has allowed cinema halls and theatres to resume business with 50 per cent of seating capacity and standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The Multiplex Association of India (MAI) in an official statement, earlier this month, urged state governments, including Maharashtra, to restart operations. “An urgent permission from the state governments to reopen cinemas in their states would go a substantial distance in ensuring that the cinema exhibition sector is able to quickly recover from the dire economic and financial impact of the epidemic,” it said.
Gautam Dutta, PVR CEO, said they would be able to open only 496 screens as only 14 state governments have granted permission to reopen its multiplexes. Dutta said the company is yet to receive any direction from the state government of Maharashtra, where it operates the highest number of screens. He described Maharashtra as an extremely important market as PVR occupies the largest percentage of screen share. Industry experts said that closure of cinema halls in Maharashtra beyond Octiber 31 could impact new releases and the overall business. Cinepolis India CEO Devang Sampat said the company is fully ready and would abide by the directions issued by the government. “We welcome the move from the central government. Almost 75 per cent scree of the 350 screens, which we operate in India would be open,” he said. “We are requesting the other state governments to allow us to open the balance screens as soon as possible.”
Mukta A2 Cinemas, which is run by Subhash Ghai’s film production company Mukta Arts, is set to open 40 per cent of the screens which it operates. Mukta Arts MD Rahul Puri welcomed the decision to reopen cinemas and multiplexes. “The SOPs that have been released are highly comprehensive and will guarantee that the return to normalization is a smooth one,” he said. “This announcement brings enormous relief to the media and entertainment industry and the thousands of people it employs, many of whom have been severely impacted by the shutdown.” Moreover, INOX Leisure is looking to take advantage of the pandemic. “We are looking to innovate with private screenings, where families or smaller groups of guests can book the entire auditorium and enjoy the content of their choice,” said Alok Tandon, the CEO. “Our shows will be programmed in such a manner that there are no simultaneous entries, intermissions and exits.” Tandon said Innox will also keep PPE kits available for purchases. It will include a mask, pair of gloves and sanitizer. It will also provide a web link to its viewers through SMS to access the food and beverage menu to place order.
Since March 2020, multiplexes and cinema halls have been reeling under heavy losses. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra state administrations have not allowed cinema halls to reopen until October 31.