Industry cautiously optimistic as theatres reopen
It has been more than a year since theatrical business came to a standstill with the pandemic forcing cinema halls to down their shutters in March last year
Cinema turnstiles are beginning to turn again with biggies such as Akshay Kumar's 'Bell Bottom' lined up for release, and industry insiders, hopeful but wary, say they are only too conscious that the road to economic recovery is riddled with uncertainties in Covid times.
As Covid numbers dip in parts of the country, Delhi has allowed theatres to open at 50 percent capacity. Several states, including Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, have also permitted cinemas to resume operations.
"We are eagerly waiting to see theatres reopen with full capacity. That said, we also acknowledge the uncertainty of the current situation. As the adage goes, health is wealth - and it is all the more important now, said Dharma Productions CEO Apoorva Mehta.
"The extensive vaccination drive being carried out across the world is a ray of hope and optimism. As and when the majority of the population are fully vaccinated, the sense of safety and assurance of stepping out will return," an optimistic but cautious Mehta stated.
Distributors and producers have announced the release of a slate of films this month.
Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar recently said his film 'Bell Bottom' will be released in cinema halls on August 19 in 3D and 2D, the first major film to have a theatrical release amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ranjit M Tewari-directed thriller, also starring Vaani Kapoor, Lara Dutta and Huma Qureshi, was originally scheduled to release in April this year but was postponed to July 27 due to the second wave.
The lineup lists a host of Hollywood movies, including the latest 'Fast & Furious' installment, director M Night Shyamalan's Old, Best Original Screenplay Oscar-winning film 'Promising Young Woman', animated feature' The Croods: A New Age' and Bob Odenkirk-starrer 'Nobody'.
Reliance Entertainment Group CEO Shibasish Sarkar, who is awaiting the release of two big films from his stable, 'Sooryavanshi' and '83', said long-term planning may not work.
Given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic a second Covid wave hit India hard in April-May - it is futile to worry about the release of these two tentpole movies, Sarkar said.
"You can worry about something only if things are in your control. No one has clarity and let's start accepting that for a situation that is much larger, people have to be flexible and agile and if there is a situation then we have to make quick calls and there has to be backup calls, he said.
Jayantilal Gada of Pen Studios, which is distributing 'Bell Bottom' as well as Alia Bhatt-starrer 'Gangubai Kathiawadi', 'RRR' and 'Attack', said all of these films will release theatrically.
"We are hopeful about the future. Both the central and state government are doing their bit to contain the spread of the virus. They will give permission to reopen when they feel the situation is normal and safe," said Gada.
"We are also trying to understand what is happening in which state and then accordingly we will make announcements. I am hopeful business will be more once we return to normalcy, mainly because people have been devoid of family outings during the pandemic," he said.
It has been more than a year since the theatrical business came to a standstill with the pandemic forcing cinema halls and other crowded places to down their shutters in March last year.
Exhibitors and trade pundits have expressed happiness over the resumption of cinema halls but they feel theatres need to open in Maharashtra as it is the hub of the entertainment sector.
Multiplex Association of India (MAI) recently urged Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to allow the theatres to reopen in the state, which is home to the Hindi film industry.
Established under the aegis of FICCI in 2002, the national multiplex trade body represents more than 18 regional and national multiplex chains, including PVR, INOX, Carnival and Cinepolis, and operates more than 2,900 screens across the country.
The MAI said the decision of the Maharashtra government to keep the cinema halls closed even as other major states have allowed the resumption of operations was "disappointing".
"Government of Maharashtra's decision to keep Cinemas closed is hugely disappointing news for the entire Film Industry. This comes at a crucial time when the Industry has received permission to reopen from all major States, and is trying to recover from the devastating pandemic," the association said in a tweet.
"Urging @OfficeofUT to reconsider and allow Cinemas to reopen @AUThackeray #Unlockcinemas #savejobs," the MAI further said.