Exhibition of films may continue to be at an arms length for entertainment seekers in the near future. Though the government is ready to open up cinemas by duly following the COVID-19 protocols, the industry is unlikely to welcome the idea. The exhibitors have more reasons to cite on staying away from the latest Unlock option, rather than embrace it with open arms.
First of all, the marathon lockdown since March-end has wreaked havoc on the film industry, which is still trying to grapple with the reality. With permission for shooting remaining elusive for over four months, many films have remained mere scripts. In the absence of content, films are not in a position to hit the box office, which is said to be the first disappointing factor for the exhibitors. Even if the theatres are to remain open, there will be severe crunch for fresh content and as such re-run may be the only option staring at their face.
Thanks to the presence of globalised audience today, world wide release is not just an option, but is a mandatory requirement for the tinsel town to rake in the moolah. "If there has to be a release, it should only be a worldwide release to ensure decent profit. The James Bond film No time to die slated for April 2020 had to be postponed to April 2021 to ensure global release. Similarly, another big budget movie Fast and Furious 9 is expected to release by May next. Our Telugu films will be released only when the U.S., Europe and the Middle East are also ready to show the same," says film distributor and exhibitor N.V. Prasad, who was the last president of the undivided Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber of Commerce. The foreign release will ensure a whopping revenue of 50 crore, he points out.
The exhibitors have already appealed to the government for some relief from the exorbitant power bills levied on the theatres even during the lockdown period. "We are awaiting a positive response in this regard. Our fraternity can focus on future only if we get some relief from this back-breaking burden," explains Mr. Prasad.
Though a sizeable chunk of viewers is cosying up in their drawing rooms to watch films on the OTT platforms, the industry sees no major threat. "For most Indians, walking out of the house and getting into a theatre is the most sought-after experience and OTT is no match," another theatre owner chips in.
The exhibitors expect the under-production films to be ready for release by January next year, coinciding with Sankranti. After a brief lull till March-end, the industry expects a second wave of releases by April, even while keeping its fingers crossed to see the launch of vaccines around that time.