Unlock 4.0: Multiplex chains to still remain closed

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on August 30, 2020

However, open air theatres can reopen, according to MHA guidelines

Multiplex chains are staring at another month of zero revenues, as the Ministry of Home Affairs decided not to give its nod to cinema halls to resume operations in September amidst rising Covid-19 cases.

As part of the unlock 4.0 guidelines, the Ministry said that while cinema halls and entertainment parks will remain closed, open air theatres will be allowed to open from September 21.

This development comes at a time when many producers have been premièring their films on the OTT platforms. The theatrical industry, which is facing its toughest challenge due to the pandemic, was anticipating to get the nod to re-open its doors to movie-buffs in the Unlock 4.0 phase. Since the pandemic hit the country in March, multiplex chains and cinema halls were one of the first to be asked to suspend operations by the government authorities, even before the nationwide lockdown was imposed.

PV Sunil, Managing Director, Carnival Cinemas said, “It is extremely disappointing as we were hoping to resume operations by early or mid-September. Thousands of people are dependent on the theatrical industry for their livelihood. It’s important that the industry gets permissions to re-open cinema halls soon, as even after re-opening it will take a few weeks before the business stabilises. Recovery for the industry in the near term will become even more challenging due to this delay.”

Industry executives said they will look at stepping up engagement with the government authorities on the issue as the theatrical industry business is nearly now on the brink.

Last week, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry had released the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for resumption of film and TV shooting and production activities including web series and all forms of content creation.

While there have been conversations about testing open-air theatres and drive-in cinemas in the country, a senior industry executive pointed out that there isn’t much of a robust infrastructure available for open-air theatres and it is not a scalable business model in the country.

In an analyst report, Karan Taurani, Vice-President, Elara Capital said,”We believe that cinemas halls are likely to get the nod to resume operations in the month of October ( unlock 5) or somewhere around mid-October with 50 per cent capacity limit as opening with 25-30 occupancy cap is not feasible for the business.”

On Sunday, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) tweeted, “The Cinema Industry is an inherent part of the country’s culture, but also an integral part of the economy, supporting millions of livelihoods #SupportMovieTheatres.”

“Most countries across the world have allowed cinemas to operate. We request the Government Of India to allow us to operate as well. We are committed to offering a safe and hygienic cinema experience #SupportMovieTheatres,” it tweeted.

Published on August 30, 2020

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