Amid a decline in new coronavirus cases, the Maharashtra government on Monday announced new guidelines for easing lockdown restrictions in those districts. The relaxations will come into effect from Tuesday morning includes extending the existing business timings of shops and allowing shopping malls to operate in these districts. With no relief given by the government in its unlocking order to reopen theaters, cinema owners are unhappy with the new rules on easing curbs in the state.
As the entertainment industry has suffered huge losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Manoj Desai, executive director of G-7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir, says that the government’s decision to not allow the theaters to operate has shocked them. “I am surprised why the state government isn’t paying attention towards our sector. We are ready to follow all SOPs (standard operating procedures) including functioning at 50 percent capacity but that too isn’t allowed. We see crowding at markets and malls and people are easily flouting rules, so why should we suffer."
Desai also points out that theater owners were expecting some respite, including easier terms for running their businesses, such as a waiver or reduction in electricity and maintenance charges including but the government did not address these issues either, “Just two days back, I paid the electricity bills for Maratha Mandir. If this continues, we are soon going to be finished. The survival for many single screens is going to be difficult and we have seen many of them shutting shop. We need some subsidies including property tax, water tax, and other expenses."
On Tuesday, the Multiplex Association of India appealed to the Maharashtra government to allow them to open cinemas, “Government of Maharashtra’s decision to keep cinemas closed is hugely disappointing news for the entire film industry. This comes at a crucial time when the industry has received permission to reopen from all major States and is trying to recover from the devastating pandemic. Urging @OfficeofUT to reconsider and allow Cinemas to reopenFolded hands@AUThackeray," they posted on social media.
Government of Maharashtra’s decision to keep Cinemas closed is hugely disappointing news for the entire Film Industry. This comes at a crucial time when the Industry has received permission to reopen from all major States, and is trying to recover from the devastating pandemic.— Multiplex Association Of India (@MAofIndia) August 3, 2021
Last week, Akshay Kumar had announced the release of his upcoming film BellBottom on August 19 in theatres. Yesterday, while addressing a press conference in Delhi during the trailer launch of the film, the actor said that he is hoping for cinemas to start operating in the state before the release of his film.
“It’s a gamble. Someone had to do it. We have taken this leap of faith and we are very confident that the film is going to work. This is the thing that we believe in. I’m sure people are going to come to cinemas despite 50% occupancy in Delhi in other states. Besides, there are still 16-17 days to go for film to release so we are keeping our fingers crossed, you never know (Maharashtra government might allow cinemas to reopen)," said the actor.
Akshaye Rathi, who runs cinema houses in Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, says it’s time to allow cinemas to open up, “It is extremely disappointing because Maharashtra is a state which calls itself the home to the film fraternity and despite that, it is among the last five states in the country which is yet to permit cinemas to open up."
Rathi feels that it is critical for the government to take a pragmatic stand by keeping the caseload low and at the same time balance the economy of the state.
Drawing comparisons from the neighboring states, he stressed that the industry needed a roadmap for its functioning in order to make informed decisions as it was not receiving any help from the Maharashtra government, “They haven’t even rolled out any relief measures. From waiving off property tax for the period of the pandemic to providing electricity on industrial rates rather than commercial rates and a single-window license for opening more screens will help revive the sector.”