Day One was expectedly low key with not many film buffs rushing to theatres. But the weekend beckons, and things may look up yet
Empty auditoriums, old movies and limited food and beverage options --- that's what greeted movie-goers on the first day of reopening after a nearly-seven-month-long shutdown due to the coronavirus-led lockdown.
Despite the go-ahead from the central government to resume operations, not all theatres have reopened. And the crowds are not flocking in yet to those that have.
Among multiplexes, PVR will open for the public tomorrow and, in a kind of cheery morale-booster, it has dedicated the first day of reopening to its employees and COVID-19 warriors.
In Bengaluru, two theatres each of INOX and Cinepolis reopened on October 15 while the rest are getting ready to resume operations.
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Of the two Cinepolis theatres that have reopened, the Moneycontrol team visited one that is housed inside Meenakshi Mall on Bannerghatta road.
Low footfalls on day one
The morning show was a disappointment. Taapsee Pannu-starrer Thappad was running on one of the screens but the film had no takers, and the auditorium was empty.
Currently, theatres across all states that have allowed cinemas to reopen are running old content as no new films have been released.
This has been a major concern for exhibitors as old content is impacting footfalls.
From six tickets sold in the morning to eight tickets for the afternoon show, the traction for movies at Cinepolis was abysmally low.
However, Kannada film Shivaji Surathkal, which was released in February this year, saw some traction as most of the audience that came for the afternoon show bought tickets for the film.
Limited content in theatres
There is limited content running in theatres on day one. From Bollywood, it is only Thappad, Malang and Ayushmann Khurrana’s Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. Among the Hollywood films that theatres have re-released are Vin Diesel’s Bloodshot, Ford v Ferrari and The Lion King. And there are a couple of films from down south as well that exhibitors have re-released.
Due to limited content, theatres have reduced the overall number of shows. For example, Cinepolis in its theatre at Meenakshi Mall, has dropped the number of shows to nine currently from 35 in pre-COVID times.
Even with a limited number of shows, occupancy has been low. For the evening show at Cinepolis, the number of tickets booked in the afternoon was around 15, which is likely to increase as the bookings for the evening show were still underway.
Weekend boost likely
Some cinephiles are also of the opinion that footfalls will increase over the weekend.
A group of college students that came to watch Shivaji Surathkal said they would come back to watch another film over the weekend.
One of the college students also said that he was happy to come back to the theatre after a long time.
Another movie-goer, filmmaker S Jay, came to the theatre to not only catch up on a film but also to support the theatre business.
“I was waiting for theatres to reopen. I am a filmmaker and I am doing my bit to support theatres,” said Jay.
He however said the checkered seating pattern was a disappointment.
“Sitting in alternate seats is a problem because we come as a group to enjoy a film and the new seating pattern doesn’t serve the purpose,” he added.
While the new seating protocol disappointed S Jay, he was happy with the discounts on ticket prices.
Many theatres are offering discounts on ticket prices. Cinepolis has slashed its prices to Rs 100-Rs 110 from Rs 200-210.
Even PVR has dropped prices to Rs 99 from its average ticket price of Rs 207.
Few options for F&B
Foodies don't have much to munch on, though. In most theatres, food and beverages (F&B) options are largely limited to popcorn and cold drinks or coffee.
At Cinepolis, F&B items included popcorn, cold drinks, nachos and coffee. The multiplex operator will be adding more product offerings in a week’s time.
It plans to add to the F&B menu its gourmet offering including burgers, fries, rolls, pizzas. All of the new and old F&B will be packed according to the government's standard operating procedure (SOP) which says that only packaged food items can be sold in theatres.
This is why theatres are also redesigning their packaging to adhere to the SOP. The gourmet offerings at Cinepolis will be added in a phased manner, and will come in covered boxes.
Also, food will not be delivered inside cinema screens. Movie-goers can order food online but it will not be delivered at their seat. There is an express pickup at Cinepolis from where movie-goers can pick up their food. Along with online food ordering, cinephiles can directly pick up food at the F&B counter.
Food delivery inside cinema halls has been restricted to avoid multiple touchpoints.
Keeping theatres safe
In terms of safety, interval time has been increased from 10 minutes during pre-COVID times to 20 minutes currently.
In addition, after every show the time gap has increased from 20 to 40 minutes. The time between the shows is used by the exhibitor to sanitize the seats and the entire auditorium.
Another movie-goer, Sai Saaho, who came to watch Love Mocktail, the Kannada-language film which released in January this year, is eager to come back over the weekend and is not bothered that only old content is running currently.“Watching films in theatres is a great experience for me. I missed coming to theatres during the lockdown and I was excited when it was announced that theatres will reopen,” he said.