On Thursday, cinemas and movie theaters reopen for the first time in eight months but no major Bollywood releases likely any time soon as cinema owners worry if the audience would come back in big numbers to the big screen. “We won’t know if audiences will come unless we release a film, but the big question is if those audiences are enough?”
Cinemas and near 10,000 movie screens have been closed since the country imposed lockdown in March in 2020 in the wake of coronavirus. However, some states have allowed theatres to reopen as PM Narendra Modi was asked to ease the lockdown though at 50 percent capacity and with strict curbs in place.
The staff of the cinemas was welcomed back with flowers, relatively only a few visitors who wore masks. Ramesh Gupta, who came to watch a movie in the northern Indian city of Prayagraj said, “It feels good… Everyone was bored sitting at home and it feels nice to come here.”
Moreover, no Bollywood film release have been observed in cinemas for now after they reopen. “It’s a chicken and egg situation,” said Shibasish Sarkar, CEO of Reliance Entertainment, which has two big-ticket movies waiting 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 no movie is being screened, some Bollywood production houses have instead sold movies to streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney, and Amazon Prime Video.
“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, told Reuters.
Shailesh Kapoor of Ormax, an agency that tracks Bollywood releases said, “Many single-screen theatres will probably never open, and we won’t know the full impact until theatres actually do open.”