Finally, the wait for theaters has come to an end after eight months as the movie lovers and fanatics have been marching towards the big-screens as the resumption of the theaters has been one of the crucial relaxations poured by the Central government in the fifth phase of the unlocking process to gradually pull out the country from the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Central government has announced that the theaters can be opened on October 15 with the regulations and standard operating protocols to the staff and audience. As per the announcement, the theaters have opened in most of the states on Thursday while some of the states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashra, which are the biggest markets of the movie industries, hadn't permitted the resumption owing to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the wait is over, the fear and uncertainty around the resumption aren't over.
The Center has allowed the theaters to function with 50 percent of the seating capacity and with the multiple guidelines including wearing masks, observing social distancing, and adhering to protocols issued by the concerned department. However, the theater owners are bracing up the challenges and uncertainty over whether the resumption would be profitable and would fix the corridors of a broken economy.
The reports say that it's less likely as the theater owners are dubious whether the fans and audience would enjoy the movies on the big screens like the pre-COVID-19 world. Though many had waited for the resumption of the theaters, the growing numbers of the COVID-19 cases could put them with the mind to refrain from going to the theaters and at the current state, the theater owners are levied with the question of whether they would attract enough audiences.
With having no big star movies for the immediate release, the theaters would be screening older films for now and the biopic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be the first movie to get released in the theaters. The biopic was released in 2019 ahead of Modi's victory in the Lok Sabha polls and it would be re-released again in the movie theaters on Thursday as they resumed their service nearly after eight months.
However, the Bollywood movie industry has seemingly stayed off from releasing the movies on the big screens as it has developed a new love and new feet to walk on in the absence of the theaters - OTT platforms. As the lockdown has peaked the growth of the OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+Hotstar, the movie industries have directly taken the movies to the hands of the audiences through these platforms.
According to Reuters, Bollywood has stayed away from the theaters despite approaching the festival season including Diwali during which the theaters in India would witness large numbers of movies getting released and a large group of audiences march towards the theaters. As the COVID-19 and the lockdown had spoiled the economy and closed the theaters, the OTT platforms still play strong as the only option to release the movies.
Several Bollywood production houses have sold movies to Netflix and other platforms instead of releasing them in the theaters. Speaking to Reuters, the Chief Executive of Reliance Entertainment said, "We won't know if audiences will come unless we release a film, but the big question is if those audiences are enough".
A Theater owner, who owns cinema halls in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, told Reuters, "We are trying to test the waters and see if audiences will come back. Once they do, we will hopefully see new movies getting released". Showing the sign of the uncertainty, the agency that tracks Bollywood releases told the news agency that many single-screen theaters will probably never open and said, "We won't know the full impact until theaters actually do open".
India nearly has over 10,000 movie screens and all of them hadn't opened at one shot as some of the state governments hadn't permitted the resumption of theaters in the wake of the COVID-19 spread in the country which had affected 7.30 million people so far. States like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Chattisgarh hadn't permitted the resumption while some of the cinema halls would be opened in a new normal.
Prime Minister Modi's biopic and Sushant Singh Rajput's last theatrical release 'Chhichhore' are among some of the films that will be re-released on Thursday. According to reports, PVR Cinemas, which is India's largest film exhibitor with 845 screens across 71 cities, has on Wednesday said that ten states and four UTs have permitted to open their theaters in their territories.
With not having a large-scale opening, theaters are bracing up the challenges to move ahead with the new normal amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and while the theater owners celebrate the resumption by welcoming the audience with cutting cakes and hoarding balloons at the entrances, the real celebrations sit far away from them as the nation is still short of the complete normalcy amid fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Movie theatres set to open in Lucknow from today with 50% operating capacity— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 15, 2020
"We've made all ticketing paperless. All procedures of distancing, wearing masks are mandatory. We will help people get a safe movie entertainment experience," says the manager of INOX Cinemas pic.twitter.com/b159Z80VEC
Karnataka: Movie theatres set to open in Bengaluru from tomorrow, operating at 50% capacity— ANI (@ANI) October 15, 2020
"We are preparing for running operations from tomorrow & will follow all the mandated protocols to prevent the spread of COVID," says the manager of Santosh Theatre, Bengaluru pic.twitter.com/AQ6IbTWQZy