Along with capacity expansion, content will be key in reviving the COVID-19 pandemic-hit cinema business.
Majority of the multiplex chains have restarted operations as many states have allowed cinemas to reopen including big markets like Delhi.
Multiplex operators PVR and INOX both announced reopening in select markets.
INOX is reopening from Juky 30 in Delhi NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and down south in states like Telangana, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, among others.
While PVR operates 842 screens, INOX has 637 screens.
Another player Miraj Cinemas which has 150 screens will be reopening in states wherever theatres are allowed to reopen from August 5.
Other multiplex chains are opening in select markets. Cinepolis which has 419 screens has restarted in Hyderabad today and the rest of the properties will open gradually in the coming weeks.
Similarly, Rahul Puri, MD, Mukta A2 Cinemas, a cinema chain by Mukta Arts, a company founded by veteran filmmaker Subhash Ghai, said that they have reopened theatre in Vizag.
According to industry players and analyst, almost 80 percent of markets have reopened for theatres in India barring Kerala , Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
And now, even Maharashtra's Health Minister Rajesh Tope has said that the government will ease COVID-19 restrictions in 25 districts and will also allow reopening of cinemas.
Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat contribute almost 65 percent to Hindi box office collections which is the biggest contributor to overall exhibition business.
Overall, Girish Johar, film producer and trade business analyst noted that with top multiplex players restarting operations, around 4,000 screens have reopened across India.
Unlike last year when many theatres remained shut despite getting permission to reopen, around 50 percent of screens have reopened on the back of a strong content pipeline.
"Last year it was graded reopening from October 15. And only on December 25 we had a big-ticket release like Wonder Woman. As for this time, we have Suicide Squad which is getting day and date release in India on August 5, and down south we have Tuck Jagdish in Telugu and Tunak Tunak in Punjabi. In the second week we have Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Punjabi film Puaada and in the third week we have Akshay Kumar's Bell Bottom on August 19. We have a much better content lineup this time," said Sharma.
In addition, other multiple large Hindi films slated for release include Akshay Kumar's Sooryavanshi which is likely to release on October 2, Prithviraj on October 4, Ranveer Singh's 83 may release either on October/November 5, Jayeshbhai Jordaar could release on December 6.
With content availability, Johar expects the cinema business to reach pre-COVID levels in the next two to three months. And Akshay Kumar's Bell Bottom will be a big driver for the theatre business, he added.
Even Sharma is hopeful of a faster recovery and expects the cinema business to reach the pre-COVID level by the third quarter of FY22.
Along with content, the pace of vaccination will be key for the revival of cinema business.
This is why theatre chains are coming up with offers for vaccinated audience.
Ajay Bijli, Chairman and Managing Director, PVR, said that the focus now will be on encouraging vaccination.
PVR has introduced a ‘JAB Offer’ in the first week of reopening where one vaccinated guest can get another ticket free on select content as well as one food and beverage combo free with the purchase of another.