Cinemas reopen in a few Indian states after 8 months, no new Bollywood releases
MUMBAI (INDIA) – In some parts of India, movie halls will reopen for the first time in eight months on Thursday. However, there are no major Bollywood releases and beleaguered cinema owners worry if movie lovers can be wooed back to the big screen.
Almost all the 10,000 movie screens in the country have remained shut since a lockdown was introduced in March when the pandemic broke out.
Some states have allowed theatres to reopen as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is gunning for a gradual relaxation of curbs. Movie halls have been told to limit their audience to 50 per cent capacity and implement strict preventive measures.
Bollywood is staying away from the upcoming festival season, when ticket sales surge and people throng movie halls.
“It’s a chicken and egg situation,” said Shibasish Sarkar, CEO of Reliance Entertainment, which has two big-ticket movies to be released.
“We won’t know if audiences will come unless we release a film, but the big question is if those audiences are enough,” he said.
As of now, movie halls are showing older flicks, including a biopic of Modi released after his second victory.
Several Bollywood production houses have sold movies to streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney and Amazon’s Prime Video instead of waiting for movie theatres to reopen.
“We are trying to test the waters, see if audiences will come back. Once they do, hopefully we will see new movies releasing,” Akshaye Rathi, a theatre owner who owns properties in the central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, said.
“Many single-screen theatres will probably never open, and we won’t know the full impact until theatres actually do open,” said Shailesh Kapoor of Ormax, an agency that tracks Bollywood releases.