Theatre re-opening: Upbeat movie industry juggles release dates for new films logjam

After being shut for a year and a half (with a brief few weeks of re-opening earlier this year), movie theatres are now re-open in almost all states. The Maharashtra Government, which has so far not allowed the re-opening of cinema halls due to the COVID-19 cases in the state, has now given a green signal. The CMO’s office has tweeted that cinema halls in the state will be permitted to reopen from October 22, 2021. The decision to allow re-opening of movie halls comes nearly two weeks after the Multiplex Association of India (MAI), along with leading cinema chains PVR and INOX, urged the Maharashtra Government to reopen theatres in the State on an “urgent basis”, claiming that the exhibition industry has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 4,800 crore.

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While the news of theatres re-opening has been announced, the Maharashtra Government is yet to prescribe the SOPs for cinema operations. Since the pandemic started in March 2020, theatres have invested a lot of time in training and awareness building about safety and hygiene protocols in the new normal.

It has been announced that Ranveer Singh’s cricket drama ‘83’ will be releasing on Christmas this year. Yash Raj Films shared on Instagram that it has lined up four films for theatre release – starting with ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’ on November 19, 2021; ‘Prithviraj’ on January 21, 2022; ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’ on February 25, 2022; and ‘Shamshera’ on March 18, 2022. Aamir Khan Productions has announced that ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’, a remake of Oscar-winning ‘Forrest Gump’ will be releasing on February 14, 2022. Ajay Devgun tweeted that his film ‘Mayday’, also starring Amitabh Bachchan, will release on April 29, 2022. Horror-comedy ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ will be releasing on March 25, 2022.

Sharing in detail about how PVR is ensuring the safety of its customers, Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Ltd, said, “Currently out of the 17 states and 4 UTs where PVR operates, PVR is already open in 14 states and 3 UTs where permissions have been given. We are receiving encouraging responses from audiences who are visiting our cinemas to watch new content being rolled out. This clearly shows that patrons are assured of the stringent safety and hygiene protocols being followed at our cinemas. PVR goes beyond the government mandated SOPs such as use of UV cabinets to sterilize all food packaging before serving to guests and use of antimicrobial film on most touched surfaces. There is a huge pent-up demand from audiences to watch movies on the big screen and with the big-ticket Bollywood and Regional films awaiting announcement by producers and internationally released Hollywood Content, we expect the movie going habits to return among patrons.”

Besides following the prescribed seating restrictions, the cinemas have to be frequently deep cleaned and disinfection of all customer touch points including entrance, Box Office, lobbies, auditorium, F&B counters, restrooms and exit gates will be carried out. In an endeavour to provide enhanced hygiene, the protocols like mandatory mask, temperature check, e-tickets, contactless payment & entry and enhanced intake of fresh air should also be implemented by the theatres and make sure that the consumers trust their safety and come back to the theatres.

Explaining about their communication and marketing strategy, Alok Tandon, CEO, INOX Leisure Ltd, said, “In the current times, we have been extremely agile, positive, relevant and transparent on our social media platforms, with an improved sense of timing. Our content on social media may be largely divided into posts pertaining to new releases and posts aimed at strengthening the brand. There are a lot of movie-led marketing initiatives, with major releases like ‘No time to die’ and ‘Sooryavanshi’ slated to release in the near future. Most importantly, we are absolutely upbeat about our renewed F&B roadmap, and we are extremely excited about it. Besides making our food available on online food ordering platforms, we have chalked out plans to expand our range, add more home-meal replacement options.”

The film industry has been badly hit due to the coronavirus pandemic and now that the theatres have reopened, people will start getting their jobs back, and so much more. Expressing their happiness, several people from the media and entertainment fraternity took it to social media.

Thanking the Maharashtra government and announcing the release date of his movie Sooryavanshi, Akshay Kumar in a Tweet said, “So many families would be thanking Shri. Uddhav Thackeray today! Grateful for allowing the reopening of cinema halls in Maharashtra from Oct 22. Ab kisi ke roke na rukegi - AA RAHI HAI POLICE”

Karan Taurani, SVP - Research Analyst (Media & Consumer Discretionary), Elara Capital, commented, “This is a big respite for cinemas as we will see a large Hindi film during Diwali. We expect some big clashes of large Hindi/ English films over the next few months as relaxation happens on:

  • The occupancy front (a very important aspect for recovery, as it will enable families to sit together)
  • Night curfew
  • Weekend curfew/ restrictions in many states.”

Adding further, Taurani mentioned, “It is also a positive for Hollywood as Maharashtra contributes almost 40% of Box Office for English content; many studios had held back releases due to Maharashtra.”

Sharing his excitement about reopening of theatres, Veteran producer Anand Pandit said, “It is absolutely wonderful news that cinemas will be reopening in Maharashtra ahead of Diwali. We have been waiting for this and I am glad that the Govt in its wisdom decided to reopen theatres. Yes, it will be a big screen Diwali and hopefully will be a blockbuster one. The industry needs this revival and given that Maharashtra is one of the biggest markets, we hope to see the return of audiences to the theatres. What better time to start than Diwali! I honestly don't see too many clashes given that the industry understands that the return of audiences might be slow and it would be best to avoid a situation where the audience’s worth gets divided.”

Sajid Nadiadwala said, “At Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, we welcome honourable Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s historic decision which will once again enable producers to release their films and offer big screen entertainment to the audience. I am really happy for the cinema hall and multiplex owners since this decision will boost their revival. With big festivals around the corner, there couldn’t be better time to start than Diwali. We look forward to see you at the movies!”


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