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COVID-19 impact: Is August the right time for theatres to reopen in India?

Looking at the rising coronavirus cases in India, cinemas reopening any time soon seems to be a distant dream.

July 28, 2020 / 11:04 PM IST

Currently, the buzz in the exhibition space is that theatres are likely to open in August. But, can cinemas really reopen that soon in India?

Recently, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry also recommended to the Union Home Ministry that cinema halls all over the country be allowed to reopen in August.

But, looking at the rising coronavirus cases in India, cinemas reopening any time soon seems to be a distant dream.

Here is why.

Internationally, theatre chains are either pushing back their reopening dates or shutting down after reopening because of surge in coronavirus cases.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

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There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

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Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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For example, theatres in China that had restarted operations early this week after six months of coronavirus-led closure shut down again due to new cluster of coronavirus cases. In fact, as many as three attempts of reopening cinemas in China have failed in the COVID-19 times.

AMC Theaters, America’s largest cinema chain with more than 600 locations, recently said that it was looking at reopening in August instead of July.

AMC is moving the date of restarting also because of the change in release schedule of big Hollywood ventures.

Once again, Christopher Nolan's Tenet will not release on its scheduled date. The film's release date first moved from July 17 to 31 then to August 12. Now, it looks like the makers are contemplating a staggered release. Reportedly, Tenet will release between August 26 to 28 in Europe and later in Asia.

As for Mulan, its release date has been postponed indefinitely.

Another struggle for exhibitors in India is viability after reopening.

Cinema-owners are unhappy that they cannot operate at full capacity. According to them, running at 25 percent would be worse than keeping cinemas shut.

Plus, in international markets where cinemas have reopened, the footfalls are very low.

Let's take the example of Indian films that have released in UAE. Since its release in UAE, Baaghi 3's weekly collection has ranged between Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 39,000.

For Akshay Kumar-starrer Good Newwz and Ayushmann Khurrana's Dream Girl, the collections have been even lower. While Good Newwz has recorded collections between Rs 49,000 to Rs 23,000, Dream Girl has gathered Rs 32,000 to Rs 8,000.

Although it is old content that is playing in international cinemas - also resulting in lower footfalls, the release of new content in India in the next three months looks difficult.

Two big ventures including Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi and Ranveer Singh-starrer 83 are scheduled for Diwali and Christmas release respectively.

Hence, cinemas opening in August may not be the right time.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Jul 26, 2020 12:32 pm
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