Even as cinema halls are set to raise the curtains on October 15 — after almost half a year of closure — apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biopic and a few Bengali movies, the first two weeks will mostly see reruns of pre-lockdown movies. Theatre owners are looking at only reinstating consumer confidence and assuring them about safety in the first two weeks, they said.
The fear factor of the Covid-19 pandemic still looms large, especially given the closed and air-conditioned setting of theatres, while only around 12 states have given the go-ahead for theatres to reopen, theatre owners and experts told BusinessLine.
PVR Cinemas would be opening around 496 out of its total 875 screens by October 15, while Carnival Cinemas would be opening around 110 out of its total 420 screens by that time.
“(In October, when the theatres open), there is new content available on the regional side for sure. On the Bollywood side, since the cinema halls’ reopening has just been announced, some of the studios and producers are looking if they can release the movies in the first week of November or so — there are discussions going on. There are films which were completed, but were not really ready to be released in the cinemas because there were no dates available,” said Pramod Arora, Chief Growth and Strategy Officer, PVR.
The regional cinemas slated for immediate release — in October and early November — would mostly be in Bengali and Punjabi, he said.
PV Sunil, MD, Carnival Cinemas, said that the only new movies confirmed for release in October are Khaali Peeli and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biopic. When asked about these two movies, PVR’s Arora said, “Wait and watch. It’s basically still a discussion-in-progress. So the biopic seems to be there,” he said, adding that there is nothing definite on Khaali Peeli yet.
Both Sunil and Arora said that the first few weeks would mainly have reruns of the pre-lockdown movie releases, apart from what is classified as ‘regional’ movies or non-Bollywood movie releases.
At Carnival Cinemas, it would also be running some of the all-time favourites like Bahubali and PK. “Actually, our initial efforts are to bring in people and demonstrate to them the safety aspects, etc to boost confidence. There will be no major new content. In the initial days, people need to come, and their apprehension is not actually the content, but safety. We are addressing these concerns. We are marketing the safety aspects very rigorously,” said Sunil.
PVR and Carnival Cinemas are looking at making offers and schemes on ticket prices and food and beverages, as a part of the larger effort to attract customers and boost their confidence. “Theatre owners will need to take steps to reassure consumers about the safety and will do what it takes to entice them back. Once the first few weeks see consumer inflow, it will dispel the fears of those more risk-averse. These steps may include discounted tickets and special combo offers on F&B,” said Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and angel investor.
For immediate content screening purposes, Inox will rely on library content and old blockbusters for a couple of weeks, said Alok Tandon, CEO – INOX Leisure Ltd.
“Subsequently, there are quite a few major Hindi titles, which are complete, or are near completion, and are extremely promising from the star cast and content perspective. We also have our eyes set on the slew of releases in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Bengali and Punjabi, which are slated to release over the next 3-4 months. It is extremely encouraging to see new content being released in Bengal during Durga Puja, which includes 5 new movies,” he added. Inox will also be offering private screenings for smaller groups of families and friends, as a part of its new marketing efforts in keeping with the social distancing requirements of the pandemic.