Cinema and multiplex operators have expressed dismay over the government’s move to not allow screens to open in the second phase of unlocking and said an early decision on this might help mobilise resources in the film industry’s ecosystem.
Cinemas are the backbone of the film industry, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the business, and an early decision to allow them to reopen will only help the mobilisation of resources and lead to a gradual resurrection, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) said in a statement.
Globally, countries such as France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Hong Kong, the UAE and the US have opened cinemas with the implementation of the highest degree of safety protocols like other sectors. The association said cinemas in India should also be allowed to operate in non-containment zones.
“At a time when a significant part of the economy is being opened up, including domestic travel, offices, high street, markets and shopping complexes, MAI feels dismayed that cinemas and multiplexes continue to remain in the list of prohibited activities under the central government’s Unlock 2 guidelines,” said Alok Tandon, a MAI member.
The government on Monday issued guidelines for the month-long “Unlock 2” and said educational institutions, Metro rail services, cinema halls and gyms would continue to remain closed.
Terming the decision “highly demotivating and disheartening” MAI said: “As compared to the unorganised retail and shops that have been opened up, multiplexes and cinemas are part of the organised sector, playing hosts to ‘revenue paying’ customers only and hence, in a better position to limit crowds unlike marketplaces and deploy all the mechanisms and guidelines for crowd control and social distancing.”
The multiplex industry in India employs over 200,000 people directly, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of revenues of the film business.
“The livelihoods of more than a million people — right from spot boys to make-up artists, musicians, designers, technicians and engineers to cinema employees to directors and actors — hinge on the survival of Indian cinema,” Tandon said.
“In fact, even after opening up, we anticipate at least three to six months before things return anywhere close to normal,” said MAI.
It added that programming of new content will take some time to kick in; movie buffs, on the other hand, are expected to take a cautious approach before returning to cinemas.
Several production houses are releasing their films directly on OTT platforms, which include Amazon and Netflix, bypassing theatrical releases as multiplexes are shut.
Disney+Hotstar last week announced seven films that will have a direct-to-digital release.
Earlier, Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana’s Gulabo Sitabo had opted for digital release on Amazon Prime Video.