Cinema halls have received the green signal to operate with 100 per cent occupancy. It is positive news for the theatre owners, but not so for the box office just yet.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Sunday allowed theatres to be operate with full capacity from February 1, except in containment zones, while adhering to health safety protocols. However, despite the call, the film trade could be months away from good business. Without big releases and a psychological block over Covid still looming in the minds of many, the audience is not interested in returning to theatres right away, irrespective of whether occupancy rules allow 50 or 100 per cent.
“It was long awaited. After the central government, we await go ahead by the state government. But it is a big breather for the exhibition industry. Now, we hope that the state governments are also proactive in giving us the permission," trade expert Girish Johar said.
Things might be on the track of improvement, but getting business back to normalcy will take some time, and big releases.
“Till now, when there was 50 percent occupancy, small films were coming out and big filmmakers were not planning a big screen release. But now, with 100 per cent occupancy, we can expect the big releases. ‘Sooryavanshi’ is set to be out in April, and ‘Haathi Mere Saathi’ in March. and I am sure big Hollywood film will soon follow," said Raj Mehrotra, CEO of Delite Cinemas in the Capital.
“The business will not change overnight. It will take at least one month for normalcy to seep in. Once there is good flow of movies, there will be a flow of audience and good business," he added.
Producer Anand Pandit has the Amitabh Bachchan-Emraan Hashmi starrer “Chehre" lined up. He feels the move will instil confidence among the makers to plan pan-India release.
“This announcement has come as a relief to us producers and exhibitors, who have faced low attendance and scanty releases over the last few months. Whether the audiences will return in big numbers will depends on if they can be tempted back by blockbusters. The revision in seating capacity will encourage big-ticket films to return to theatres. Producers can now aim at a blockbuster, pan India release. I would also love to see my film ‘Chehre’ hit the silver screen in the near future," Pandit said.
Breaking down the move and future effect, Ashish Saksena, Chief Operating Officer at BookMyShow, said, “With the permissible attendance mandate now lifted, the entire industry is gearing up to welcome audiences to cinemas like the old times, ensuring safe and secure movie-watching experience for millions of cinephiles in the country."
“Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and its impact on the entertainment industry, 2021 started on a blockbuster note, reaffirming that the recovery cycle has started turning significantly. The ease in occupancy restrictions would also open doors for new releases, especially the big-budget films that have been waiting to entertain audiences for a long time now," Saksena added.
Looking back, Saksena shared, “In the last two months, the box office sales have spiralled despite limited releases across cinemas pan India. The release of films like ‘Tenet’, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ and ‘Solo Brathuke So Better’ (Telugu) in December and ‘Master’ (Tamil), ‘Krack’ (Telugu), ‘Red’ (Telugu), ‘Eeaswaran’ (Tamil) and ‘Alludu Adhurs’ (Tamil) in January, has helped churn the recovery cycle for the movie industry. The ticketing trends that followed these releases in the last couple of months are a true reflection of the pent-up audience demand, with BookMyShow selling well over 10 million tickets in under 3 months."
“As more new films make their way to the silver screen gradually, we expect a steady recovery cycle from April onwards," he added.
The multiplexes have also hailed the decision.
“This move would give confidence to producers to release their much-awaited films, and the audience to return to the cinemas to watch their choice of movies in the company of their loved ones," said Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Limited.
Kamal Gianchandani, President of The Multiplex Association of India, sounded confident when he said, “With multiple vaccines beginning to roll out, the cinema industry is poised to quickly recover from the unprecedented impact of the pandemic. A quick and timely decision by the government to restore 100 per cent seating capacity means all cinema operators now have the seating capacities to attract new films to their theatres."
With films starring Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan, Ranveer Singh, Kangana Ranaut and Alia Bhatt lined up for release on the big screen, the moviegoing culture should revive over the next months.