Theatres in India reopen with ‘old films’

(Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

CINEMAS in India re-opened tentatively on Thursday(15) with the screening of old films as film studios are offering no new releases.

However, some states still keeping theatres closed including Maharashtra and its movie mad capital Mumbai.

After the recent loss of several luminaries to coronavirus, cancer and even suicide — as well as a Bollywood drugs scandal — the industry is desperate for some good news.

At the Sharada Cinema in Bangalore on Thursday, there was only a small trickle of customers for the morning showing of action fantasy “Kaanadante Maayavadanu”.

One of those in line was businessman Chandrashekhar Naidu, who said he was “excited” to return to the cinema after the almost seven-month-long coronavirus-imposed hiatus.

“I prefer watching movies on big screens, mobiles don’t give you that much pleasure,” the 55-year-old said.

Media reports quoting unnamed industry executives said that advance bookings were very low, and some cinemas scrapped previously scheduled morning screenings.

India’s largest operator PVR — which lost $30 million in the last quarter — on Thursday was only screening movies for employees, police and their families, before opening to the public on Friday at selected locations.

“Right now, what we are working on is getting the confidence of people back by letting them know that the cinemas are safe and secure,” said Lalit Ojha, a regional director for INOX, the country’s second-largest multiplex operator.

“We are hoping to have a blockbuster release at Diwali,” Ojha said, referring to next month’s Hindu festival that usually spells a bonanza for theatres and retail businesses.

Nervous producers have so far refrained from lining up any big-ticket releases, with many pushing their films directly to streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

“It’s a vicious circle — people won’t come to cinemas unless there is fresh content. And producers won’t release a movie without some guarantee that it will do good business,” said film trade analyst Komal Nahta.

“Ultimately, someone will have to take a chance and release an exciting film,” he said.

A handful of producers are reportedly ready to take the risk, with at least one Hindi film, “Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari”, due for release on November 13 — Diwali weekend.

Top Bollywood producer Aditya Chopra is also preparing to release “Bunty Aur Babli 2”, a sequel to a 2005 hit, at the same time, according to media reports.

But with India’s virus cases surging past seven million, the threat of infection remains strong, prompting authorities in Mumbai, the home of Bollywood, to put off reopening cinemas for the time being.

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