Maharashtra exhibitors wish they were given ample notice to reopen halls

Mumbai (IANS) With the government of Maharashtra announcing reopening of theatres across the state from November 5 with 50 per cent occupancy, cinema hall and multiplex owners sound relieved. However, they feel the announcement could have been made a little in advance, giving them time to prepare after almost eight months of being shut.

Manoj Desai, Executive Director of G7 Multiplex and Maratha Mandir theatre, told IANS: “It’s a little surprising. They should have announced at least a couple of days before. We are mentally not prepared. But anyhow, we are thinking to start with our small theatres from this Friday like Gossip, Glamour, Gem, and Gemini, and then we will open the bigger ones like Gaiety and Galaxy a few days later. We will also run a matinee show of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge at Maratha Mandir from Friday.”

Talking about the precautionary measures being taken amid the pandemic, he added: ” Hand sanitiser will be provided at the main gate and wearing masks will be compulsory for everybody entering the hall. Tickets will be available both online and at the ticket window.”

Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India President Nitin Datar is also of the opinion that a little more time should have been given for exhibitors to prepare. “I feel fine and exhibitors are also happy about the decision. But it should have come a bit earlier,” Datar said.

“With cinema halls reopening in Maharashtra and Mumbai, distributors will be inclined to release Hindi films throughout India. With (halls in) Maharashtra was not opening, the states where exhibitors had opened their cinemas were finding it difficult to procure Hindi films. We hope the audience turns up, if not immediately but gradually,” Datar added.

Kunal Sawhney, Senior Vice President of Carnival Cinemas, is grateful to the government for finally paying heed to their appeal. “We are very happy and thankful to the government that finally they have heard our appeal. With theatres opening in Maharashtra, there are two benefits to it. Firstly, we have over 100 screens in Maharashtra, it is a very big portfolio for us. Plus, once Maharashtra opens, we will see a lot of Bollywood and Hollywood movies start releasing in India. Cinemas were opened in several parts of India since October 15 but not a single Bollywood or Hollywood movie released. So not only for Maharashtra, this is a very big news for entire India,” he said.

With theatres opening with 50 per cent occupancy, how much business do they expect to do? Sawhney sounded optimistic while discussing the issue. “Last to last week during Durga Puja, a movie called “Dracula Sir” released, and we saw back to back housefull shows on all four days in Kolkata, with the statutory 50 per cent occupancy. If the content is good, people will come to theatres no matter what, so we are optimistic,” he replied.

The average business in other parts of India has not been promising over the past weeks that cinema theatres have opened. Can the all-important Maharashtra and Mumbai circuit buck the trend and revive the exhibition scene amid pandemic? Time will tell.

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