Single-screen owners shut shop
Kolkata: Priya, Menoka, Prachi Jaya, Prachi - all reputed single-screen halls in the city have shut shop, within 40 days of reopening after the nationwide lockdown. The news of shutdowns has broken many hearts in showbiz. For many other exhibitors, who are still running the show, the news is like the death knell.
Cinema halls reopened in West Bengal on October 15, following all COVID-related protocols laid down by the government. There was euphoria among the early starters as they hoped for respectable footfall with Durga Puja round the corner. But the enthusiasm soon died as the footfall came to a trickle. The hall owners still held on, despite the high establishment costs.
But with no big releases in Bengali and Hindi happening in theatres, it became difficult for the single-screen owners to bring in the crowd.
Basusree Cinema was shut down temporarily on last Friday, due to lack of footfall. One of the owners, Saurav Bose, said, "We were getting 4-5 viewers for a show or at times none. We had a floating crowd during the festivals. But how can I run the show if there are not even 10 people in a 1020-seater hall. We will keep the hall shut till big releases start happening. We had invested so much to open again," said Bose.
Subhas Sen, owner Banirupa Cinema in Berachampa, north 24-Parganas is showing old films to keep the hall running. "There has been no big Hindi film release. Apart from 'Switzerland', there had been no good release, post Puja," said Sen, who is also deputy chairman, exhibitor section, EIMPA. He is looking forward to the release of Jeet and Mimi Chakraborty starrer 'Baazi' and 'Kakababur Protyaborton' for the change in fortunes.
Udayan Cinema in Sheoraphuli, Hooghly, which is 324 and 100-seater hall, shows both Bengali and Hindi films. Owner Partha Sarathi Daw said, "It is difficult to sustain. It is better we close. We are showing Soumitra's repeat films but there is hardly any crowd."
Paradise Cinema owner Sunit Singh would be patting his back for backing himself on not reopening his hall on October 15. For someone, who only screens Hindi movies, there was not much exciting content. "My fellow exhibitors, who screen Bengali films, thought they would be compensated with good content but they were disappointed. We are badly hit. It is a bleak situation. How many people will survive by shutting down cinemas for more than a year? They might think of doing some other business," said Singh.
But there is good news awaited in December. Warner Bros' 'Tenet' is slated to hit the screens on December 4. It will be followed by a Bollywood film 'Indoo Ki Jawani' featuring Kiara Advani.
Holding fort despite the shortcomings is Navin Chokhani, owner of Navina Cinema. He says he has wisely invested whatever he profited in the last 40 years back in his business. "I'm ready to invest back till the situation improves. I believe the show must go on. I'm sure the audience in Bengal will come back to halls if they get the right film in theatres. I'm not ready to play the open-and-shut game. If I think I cannot pull it off, I will shut forever," said Chokhani.