Theatres gear up to reopen after months of shutdown

After being closed for over six months due to the pandemic, theatres are gearing up to open up in time for Dasara. Notwithstanding COVID-19 guidelines like filling up only 50% of the total seats, exhibitors are eager to reopen the theatres and get back to business.

“It may take a couple of months for things to settle down, but a majority of proprietors who own one or two theatres are ready to screen the movies as it is still better than having to bear huge maintenance expenses without any income,” said K. Vamsi Kishore, president of Vizag Film Distributors Association.

“We are facing a shortage of content as most of the films are now being screened on OTT platforms. However, film shootings have already begun and some of them will be ready for release soon. When all other sectors have opened up, and flights are operating at full capacity, there is no reason why opening of cinemas should be delayed further,” he said.

“We are spending around ₹5 lakh a month on the maintenance of our three theatres, which have 1,400 seats, even during the shutdown. It may take a couple of months for us to draw audiences after the long gap,” said Mr. Vamsi Kishore.

“Some producers, who had taken many theatres on lease, are not keen on reopening them. They are trying to mislead the government by claiming that there is a risk of the virus spreading further. They are keen on protecting their agreements with OTT platforms and want the opening of the theatres to be delayed by a few more months,” alleged a theatre owner.

“Even without screening films, we are spending ₹1.4 lakh a month on power bills alone. The expenditure on screening of each show is around ₹20,000, taking into account overheads like salaries and power bills,” said Prasad Reddy, manager of Sarat Theatre.

“Apart from leaving seats unoccupied, sanitisation has to be done after each show. Audiences will be willing to buy tickets at a higher cost only if it is a film starring big actors. Many high-budget films are being released on OTT platforms and the small budget films are unlikely to draw many people to the theatres. Though we are getting ready, we plan to wait and watch for some days before deciding to screen films,” Mr. Reddy said.

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