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Last Updated : Oct 15, 2020 07:38 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Reopening is only half the battle won, many challenges ahead, say single screen exhibitors

Exhibitors are saying that restarting business will be tough especially with no new content releasing soon.

As theatres start reopening after the government gave cinemas a go-ahead to restart from October 15, exhibitors have many challenges ahead of them.

Exhibitors are saying that restarting business will be tough especially with no new content releasing soon.

“Reopening on October 15 is only half the battle won. After we get permission to reopen across India, we need compelling content to bring people back to cinemas,” Akshaye Rathi, film exhibitor/ director, Saroj Screens PVT Ltd, told Moneycontrol.

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He further said, “Right now entire Hollywood has shifted to summer next year. Now, we are dependent on small and mid-budget films, a lot of regional content and a couple of tentpole Hindi films if they decide to come around soon enough. So, the bigger problem is content.”

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Rathi, taking note of what’s happening internationally in the exhibition space said, “We are seeing what has happened in the UK and US where Cineworld has decided to go in hibernation and suspend operations until further and this could be the end of the first quarter next year."

He added, "This is a tricky scenario and if something similar is forced upon the Indian exhibition sector, by the time we emerge out of that hibernation around 30-40 percent of the exhibition sector would have disappeared in India. This means that when movies decide to release after it, they will have just about 70 percent of the exhibition sector compared to today to monetize their films and that will be a disaster.”

Another exhibitor, Teja, who owns a single-screen theatre called Movieland in Andhra Pradesh said that no theatres in Andhra Pradesh will think of reopening without movies.

“In AP, they are planning to open for Diwali. Before that theatres will not play films because who will watch the old movies, that's too much risk for exhibitors. In addition, 50 percent capacity is a concern. We collect most of the money in the first week. If we don't collect the money in the first week definitely the movie is a loss. For smaller films, 50 percent capacity is viable. For big films in the first week 70 percent is good.” he said.

Rathi also agrees that many theatres will reopen when movies like Sooryavanshi and 83 are ready for release.

For his theatres, Rathi is planning movie festivals like Rohit Shetty week, Salman Khan week, Action thriller or comedy week. “We will be creating passes for festivals. So, right now the focus is not earning money but to invest in getting people habituated to coming back to cinemas,” he said.

Vishnu, who owns Kasi Talkies in Chennai is planning to re-release films Avengers, Petta, 2.0, Sarkar, among others.

He said that while a lot of content is ready, exhibitors will have to show producers in the starting two weeks through occupancy that the audience is ready to come back to theatres.

“We need new content because only for a week or two we can play old content. Even a combination of old and new content will help,” said Vishnu.

He pointed out another challenge that theatres in Tamil Nadu may have to face.

“We are hearing that in Tamil Nadu, the night show will be restricted. This will be a big concern. For evening and night shows, theatres get a potential crowd. During morning shows, occupancy is 10 percent, matinee it is 20 percent, evening it is 40 percent and night show it is 30 percent. if night show is not there, we will lose a huge chunk of crowd and producers may also hold back if this happens.”

Vivek Choubey, who runs a single screen theatre in Madhya Pradesh has limited options even when it comes to releasing old content.

“In our theatre only Hindi films work. Even Hollywood films don't work. Plus, the 4k issue because we have 2K screens.”

The situation was tough for exhibitors when theatres were shut due to no income but it won’t be an easy task to restart cinemas.

“I had renovated my cinema, which was started in 1950, a few months before coronavirus hit the country. I could hardly run the theatre for six months before shutting down due to coronavirus-led lockdown. Had invested a lot in renovation and saw huge losses because of closure,” said Choubey.

Vishnu pointed out that the average maintenance cost is around five to six lakh per month but it increases and may go up to Rs eight lakh. “Playing old content will not help us to recover even the maintenance cost. At least in one week, we need a new film,” he said.
First Published on Oct 15, 2020 07:02 pm
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