After seven months of whole shutdown (resulting from Covid-19 pandemic), the Ministry of Home Affairs has given the inexperienced sign to reopen theatres (although many states equivalent to Maharashtra are but to affix the bandwagon). Since then, the main focus has been on the much-in-demand Diwali weekend, particularly after Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi was moved from the profitable festive date.

As of now, solely Manoj Bajpayee-Diljit Dosanjh starrer Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari (SPMB) has been introduced because the Diwali launch. Before that, Ishaan Khatter-Ananya Panday starrer Khaali Peeli, which earlier took the pay-per-view route, will hit the massive display on Friday (October 16). Plus, from this weekend onwards, Hollywood movies equivalent to My Spy, Force of Nature and The Rental can even begin working in theatres. Also, previous releases equivalent to Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan, Malang, Thappad, Kedarrnath and War are set to have a stint with 70mm display once more.

But the massive query is: will audiences flip up at cinemas amid the pandemic? “People still have a lot of fear of Covid-19. So, they might go to theatres or may give it a miss. But, it’s imperative for cinemas to reopen as so many livelihoods are at stake. It’s also true that audiences may not be enthusiastic about ‘smaller films’ but it’s high time theatres reopen, like other businesses,” says commerce analyst Taran Adarsh.

Insiders really feel “smaller movies” popping out on Diwali “may have an added advantage” too. As exhibitor-distribitor Akshaye Rathi places it: “It’s true that during a pandemic, people may not turn up in big numbers ro watch mid-budget films but at the same time, such films may even fly due to pent-up demand. So, you never know.”

Even earlier than incomes a single penny, theatre homeowners are compelled to spend cash from their very own pockets on account of following all the protection pointers advised by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. As per an estimate, it’s going to price something between Rs three to 5 lakh per thirty days. But exhibitors/theatre homeowners are “ready to make the investment.”

“We are mentally prepared that in the first couple of weeks, a month or even a couple of months, there may not be much revenues. So, we might have to make investments, with no returns. What’s most important is that we need to reintroduce and help inculcate the ‘theatre habit’ in people again,” says Rathi, including: “Till the time you don’t open the shop, how will you know whether there’s a demand for your product or not?”

Filmmakers, on their half, are eager to “see theatres up and running again.” “As a film aficionado, who loves to watch movies on the big screen, as well as an artist, I am personally very excited (to have my film out in theatres). I feel people are fed up of constantly sitting at home,” says SPMB director, Abhishek Sharma, including: “Plus, the movie exhibition sector, more than any other business, has suffered maximum losses over the past seven months. So, I’m happy that my film will, in a way, kick off the ‘theatre culture’ again.”

Besides SPMB, different movies equivalent to Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s manufacturing, Tuesdays and Fridays, Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar, that includes Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra, and Saif Ali Khan-Rani Mukerji starrer Bunty Aur Babli 2, which didn’t take the digital route, might also open in theatres now. Insiders really feel “fresh content may be a much bigger draw for audiences” than a movie that has already been on an OTT platform.

“I feel the real test will be when big-ticket films such as Sooryavanshi and ‘83 hit the big screens. Then, we will know where things are, and whether audiences are lapping up movies again or not,” concludes Adarsh.


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