They got permission to reopen a fortnight back but it’s the coming weekend that movie halls are claiming will be the make or break for them.
Bell Bottom, the big ticket Akshay Kumar film, released on August 19 and hall owners are hoping it will lure film-goers back to theatres.
Till Wednesday, only one out of the three screens at Nazrul Tirtha was screening films. Show timings were 2pm and 5pm. “This is because only 15 to 20 people were coming for each show. Even in the Independence Day weekend numbers did not rise to more than 20 people per show,” said Pijush Pal, who manages the ticket counter at the theatre.
Multiplexes are praying that the festive weekend pays dividends. “Two big releases — Bell Bottom and Mukhosh — are due and we are sure footfall will rise. We got good footfall in the Independence Day weekend and the one before that too,” said Amitava Guha Thakurta, regional director, Inox Leisure.
Sameer Shrivastava, regional manager of Miraj Cinemas, says Bell Bottom is their last hope. “Ours is a new hall; we opened in March but had to close due to the lockdown in April. In the short span that we were in business the only new release was Saina, that sank without a trace. We are now screening The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It but this isn’t doing well either.”
Miraj Cinemas is in New Town’s Terminus Building, that also houses Pride Hotel. “With Bell Bottom, we shall get some clarity about what film-goers are thinking. Have they been staying away from halls due to Covid or was it because there wasn’t any exciting film to watch?” Shrivastava said. “The response this film gets will help us plan ahead.”
The ticket counter at Nazrul Tirtha. Showli Chakraborty
Single-screen owners aren’t the least bit sanguine. Some are not even ready to reopen. “At a time when even multiplexes are suffering losses, how can I think of reopening my halls?” asks owner of Arati Cinema in Baguiati, Srivash Ghosh. “With paying staff salaries and maintenance work, it became increasingly difficult to make ends meet. We had reopened after the first lockdown but when the second one was announced we simply ran out of funds. I cannot afford to reopen till the market stabilises again,” he rued.
Jaya Cinema hasn’t reopened either. “A fire had broken out on our premises and repair work is still underway. So we cannot open immediately,” says Monojit Banik, owner of Jaya Cinema. “But our multiplexes in Barasat and Cooch Behar have reopened and the numbers look good. Hopefully big stars will attract big crowds.”
Film-goers are eager to hit the theatres but apprehensive. “I am a movie buff and used to watch a film every Friday before the pandemic,” said FD Block’s Deepen Bhunia, walking out of Inox after watching The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. “It’s almost a year since I watched a film in a multiplex and it feels great. I hope the halls stay open now.”
But those like Naresh Dutta of BD Block are taking no chances. “The pandemic isn’t over and experts have warned of an impending third wave. I don’t want to risk going to a theatre any time soon,” he said.
Additional reporting by Brinda Sarkar