Multiplexes to restart operations keeping in mind Covid-19 safety guidelines.


New Delhi: After facing a loss of over Rs 9,000 crore in the last six months, multiplex and single screen cinema owners have breathed a sigh of relief after the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed cinema halls to start operations under the Unlock 5.0 guidelines. Cinemas and theatres were shut for over six months.

Multiplexes across India have drawn up an elaborate plan to restart operations keeping in mind the Covid-19 guidelines issued to them for their operations.

Online contact-less and paper-less ticketing system, thorough cleaning of the auditoriums after each show, QR code based and mobile application based food ordering system inside the theatres, UV sterilisation of food packets that would be entering the multiplexes, viewing experience, PPE kits, face shields, and masks for all their employees, single use 3D glasses for premium moving viewing experience, regular health screening of all staffs working at the multiplexes, installation of hand sanitizers at strategic points, contact less water dispensers, separate entry and exit points, social distancing markers at all points, are some of the measures that multiplexes have taken into consideration when they are going to start operations.

All the major multiplexes have hailed the government’s decision to re-open cinemas after being shut for almost six months.

Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas, in a statement given to The Sunday Guardian said, “We wholeheartedly welcome the decision by the Government of India allowing cinemas to reopen across the country starting 15 October 2020. We are committed to ensuring a safe, secure and a hygienic cinema-going experience for the movie lovers of our country; as always, we would continue to assign top-most priority to the health and well-being of our guests and employees.”

P.V. Sunil, Managing Director, Carnival Cinemas, told The Sunday Guardian: “We are very happy with this news as we have been waiting for this for quite some time. Business has been affected so badly, but I would say this is the right time to open up with Diwali around the corner. 50 per cent capacity is better than what we had thought would be allowed earlier. However, for us to open up, there is a lot of work to be done. The good part is that separate teams handle each property and we also have two weeks, it seems sufficient time for us to prepare. As it is, we have planned for the reopening all this while, so there shouldn’t be a problem. While a couple of state governments are yet to give a go-ahead on the reopening of theatres, we are likely to open all the major properties in other states in the stipulated time.”

Alok Tandon, CEO, INOX Leisure Ltd, told The Sunday Guardian, “We are appreciative of the Government of India’s decision to allow cinemas and multiplexes to operate from 15 October. This decision has ushered in a lot of optimism not just for the entire film industry and its audiences, but also for the employees of the cinema exhibition sector, and their families. We are positively hopeful that the state governments now, will give us the green light too, and allow us to resume operations within the specified guidelines.”

According to the MHA order on Unlock 5.0 guidelines, multiplexes across the country would be allowed to start operations from 15 October.

However, multiplex owners are also sceptical of business in the current scenario with no movie releases in the next few weeks and their concerns on building confidence amongst movie-goers. They also believe that it would take months for things to be normal for the industry and expect that the industry would only come into a position of no-loss by April 2021.

“On the content side, producers are already having conversations about releasing films. We have limited time slots, so the content shouldn’t be a problem. In the first few weeks, there may not be an overflow of content, but things would return to normal soon,” P.V. Sunil from Carnival Cinemas said.

Some multiplexes have also decided to run all-time hit movies that had once been a success at the box office to begin with and till the time no new releases are in the offing. Through this, they believe that they would be able to build confidence among their customers.

A senior official from a multiplex, who did not wish to be quoted, told this correspondent, “We are working on the line-up of the movies and shows that we are going to be screening once the theatres are open. We have spoken to a number of producers and they have agreed to allow us to run some of their hit movies in the beginning without any charges. This is a welcome step. What needs to be done is to instil confidence among movie goers and to bring them back to the theatres and for this, we are drawing up elaborate plans.”

PVR Cinemas have already drawn up their list of movies they are going to play once operations start. In the Hindi segment, the cinemas have lined up the Akshay Kumar starrer Sooryavanshi, Ranveer Singh starrer 83, based on the life of cricketing legend Kapil Dev, a 2005 sequel movie Bunty and Babli 2, among others.

Multiplexes like the Inox are bringing in innovative ways to engage with their customers and keep the show running. Inox Cinemas is also going to soon launch private screening for customers.

Alok Tandon, CEO, INOX Leisure Ltd, said, “Keeping in mind social distancing norms, we will promote private screening as a consumer offering, wherein our guests would continue to enjoy our pampering and hospitality. Our promotional collaborations with movie studios will be much more engaging and inviting. We had started scaling up our edutainment initiatives just before this break, where we were offering a unique experience of showcasing National Geographic content to school children, on the giant screen, and that emphasis would continue to remain. Our innovations with alternate content will also continue to delight our patrons. We will bring in more concert screenings, live screening of sporting events, live events and other engaging initiatives. We have been striking unique partnerships and alliances, with brands like NBA and PBL which allows us to offer unique brand experiences to our patrons, and strengthen our relationship with them.”

Sources from different multiplexes that this correspondent spoke to also said that they are not likely to increase ticket prices for any show though they would be operating on a 50% capacity and follow strict Covid-19 protocols. These multiplexes are mulling on running many promotional offers to bring in people to the cinemas and thereby instil confidence among them.