Indians love to venture out to watch movies with families and friends but will the cinema viewing change post Coronavirus? Let’s find out from the exhibition industry and cinema trade experts.
Alok Tandon of Inox Cinema feels nothing is going to change post COVID-19. He says, “We are absolutely sure that cinema-going is not going to change at all in our country post COVID-19. We know that with our concerted efforts, combined with the passion for cinema viewing in our country, we will witness the same fervour and vibrancy in the business, something, which we have been known for.”
But seeing the global aftermath of corona virus there might be some fear in movie-goers’ mind and some people might need convincing to step into the theatre to watch movies.
To this, Tandon says, “It would require us to do a lot to gain the confidence of our patrons and we have identified various ways to deal with it. On the operational front as well, we will have to innovate and think differently to ensure social distancing once the cinemas resume services. We will continue to carry out temperature checks at the entrances. Hand sanitisers will remain available across the floor. Deep cleaning and disinfecting processes will continue to remain intense.”
But how do you maintain social distancing inside the auditorium? Tandon cited some precautionary measures to make the cine goer secure. He said, “Cross-allocation of seats is one measure, which would allow us to ensure that two guests are not assigned adjacent seats. We will have to block the seats accordingly, so that the seats are available in this manner, whether booking at the box office, or on an online platform.”
He adds, “Other measure can be to program the shows in such a manner that intermissions of two shows do not occur simultaneously. This will help us ensure that the food counters and restrooms do not get too crowded. We will keep the intensity high on kitchen stewarding.”
But this will result in lesser number of seat occupancy. And, of course, the HOUSEFULL scenario is likely to change as Tandon says, “We may even consider limiting the overall seat allocation to 50 to 60 % for some shows to control overcrowding, if need arise.”
This arrangement might affect the Box Office openings and might hamper the overall collection of a film. Increasing the ticket rates is also not an option since economy is already hit badly and people will think twice before spending lavishly on tickets plus popcorn, snacks and beverages at the movies. The only good thing coming out of this will be movies might stay in theatres for more weeks, albeit if movie goers continue to step out of their homes.
The situation for Hollywood movies is also similar. Most of the cinema halls in America are temporarily closed and most film releases put on hold, the cinema halls in some pockets are following the WHO directives. Mohan Umrotkar, CEO of Carnival Cinemas also hints at following the same post the lockdown. He said, “The World Health Organization has suggested maintaining a meter (or about three feet) distance between people. Depending on the situations, Carnival might restrict the number of maximum ticket buyers per screen. We want to assure our audience that our theatres, seats and concession areas are being thoroughly and frequently cleaned during this time also. Our in-cinema and security staff shall continue using the masks and gloves to maintain the hygiene and shall provide it to the patrons on request as well.”
Umrotkar further added, “This kind of situation is unique and hence, demands extraordinary measures. After the end of lockdown when the authorities will allow us to open our doors for public, to counter the spread of the COVID-19 Carnival Cinemas shall follow the global hygiene norms and shall introduce ‘seat separation’ policies, along with sanitisation and deep cleaning of auditoriums in between shows to help facilitate social distancing. Hand sanitizers are available at all touch points in cinemas since February and we will keep it till the threat of pandemic doesn’t subside.”
With the lockdown in India likely to extend, there are no releases likely to happen before June and most trade pundits feel that the audience will only trickle and initially small films might make their way to cinemas. Trade expert Komal Nahta says, “It is not going to be immediate and all depends on how secure the public is going to be about their safety and corona is out of India. Then things will be get better but it is going to take a while. It depends on how much we are able to control the spread of virus.”
Most of the big ticket films like Radhe, Sooryavanshi, Laxxmi Bomb, 83 and many more will not be able to release on the stipulated date but will hit cinemas only in the last part of the year.
Nahta points out, “People have to forget festivals like Eid and Diwali. In June, things will start with smaller films and big entertainers have to wait even longer because the world cinemas have to open; as 40 per cent of the revenue share comes from there and they cannot possibly forgo that. It is a very sad state of affairs at present.”
(Picture source: OneIndia)
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