The Ministry of Home Affairs issued new guidelines for Unlock 4.0 on Saturday, with several relaxations being announced; however, there was no respite for theatres. The film industry was in for a disappointment as it was declared that indoor theatres will remain closed in the Unlock 4.0 phase which will be in effect till September 30. Theatre owners across the country are in deep dilemma as they grapple with the tough reality of films releasing on OTT, and the huge losses they continue to face for survival.

The Multiplex Association of India tweeted on Sunday, “The Cinema Industry is an inherent part of the country’s culture, but also an integral part of the economy, supporting millions of livelihoods. Most countries across the world have allowed Cinemas to operate. We request the Govt Of India to allow us to operate as well. We are committed to offering a safe and hygienic cinema experience. If Aviation, Metro, Malls, Wellness and Restaurants can be allowed to operate, the Cinema Industry too deserves a chance.” #SupportMovieTheatres

The film fraternity express their views on the continued shutdown of the theatres.

Actor Sanjay Kapoor: Keeping theatres shut is a good decision, at least for now I think keeping the theatres shut is a correct decision, which is good for our own safety, especially with Covid-19 cases in India increasing every day. I remember, ‘Baaghi 3‘ was the last film that I saw in the theatre. Personally, I can’t wait to watch a film in a theatre on the big screen as that is the ultimate experience. But yes, keeping theatres shut is a good decision, at least for now.

Filmmaker Milap Zaveri: It is such a big industry and I hope the government pays heed to this. #SaveCinema was trending and I hope a decision is taken soon to restart theatres. I really hope that cinemas restart fast. I’m quite surprised that in the Unlock 4.0 phase, cinemas will not open. If you are opening restaurants, gyms, spas, airplanes, malls, metros, then why not cinemas? In fact, in the cinema theatre, you can socially distance yourself, it is not like people are going to interact while watching the film. It is really sad, and I hope that this decision is changed maybe at the end of September or early October. Not only single screens, but even multiplexes will start facing the brunt of this. Lakhs of employees, exhibitors, theatre owners, distributors, producers — everyone is going through losses and it’s not like audiences don’t want to come to the cinemas. ‘Tenet’ did so well when it opened in the theatres internationally. It released over the weekend at $3 million worldwide, and it’s seen a better opening than even ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Dunkirk’, despite less tickets being sold. The way ‘Tenet’ has done abroad, I hope that ‘Black Widow’ will also do well next month. I really hope that cinemas restart and by the time ‘Satyamev Jayate 2’ comes, I hope the audiences are whistling away in theatres. I am sure that the day theatres open, and a big film like ‘Sooryavanshi’ releases, the audience will be flocking back. Of course, you have to follow all safety protocols, which I sure everyone will adhere to, but right now it is really sad. Single screens are going through so many financial issues. It is such a big industry and I hope the government pays heed to this. #SaveCinema was trending and I hope a decision is taken soon to restart theatres.

Actor Gulshan Grover: Cinema owners, some of who are my friends for years, are facing severe issues. The uncertainty, the conditions laid down for opening up the business, and what will happen post that and whether that will be enough for them to keep the business running is debatable and worrisome. The cinema owners have felt betrayed by filmmakers who went to OTT, though I know there is another logic to what has happened. Cinema has made people the stars that they are. I am sure opening cinemas is not a priority for a government that’s battling so many different crisis at one go. But cinemas need their share of relief. I am all for the #saveourcinemas campaign and I want to see them back on track. People are yearning to go back to the big screen. Rohit Shetty and Reliance Entertainment have held onto ‘Sooryavanshi’ because they want people to experience it on the big screen and hopefully, that film will bring people back to the habit of watching a movie inside a dark theatre.

Filmmaker Sabbir Khan: Going to a cinema hall is a weekly ritual for me. I am a ‘first day first show’ kind of a guy. I need to see the film that I’ve decided before anyone can start talking about it, and it’s been this way since as far back as I can remember. So not being able to do that feels like a void. An irreplaceable void. Art is an essential part of any culture and it’s sad that our government fails to recognise that unlike the US or Europe where they have rescue packages for the cinemas. I am hoping that with all the SOP’s in place theatres open soon. I can’t wait.

Filmmaker Hitesh Kewalya: In a theatre, you can maintain social distancing only if you allow 30 per cent or 40 per cent occupation of its total capacity. If you do open the theatres at that capacity, but if the cost of keeping a theatre running remains the same, it might be very difficult for the theatre owners to cover their expenditure. We have to remember that we are in the midst of a pandemic – something that we haven’t experienced in our lifetime – we haven’t been able to fathom its impact on life completely. We don’t know what are going to be its effects. So, from that perspective, it is right that cinemas aren’t open yet, but as a filmmaker, I want to see theatres open soon. Therefore, it’s a Catch-22 situation.

Filmmaker Nikhil Dwivedi: Through the lockdown, I haven’t seen a single Hindi film that was released on OTT. That’s because I am a complete theatre junkie. I am sure that there are many like me who are waiting for movies to hit the theatres. I am into movies because I lived them while watching them on a big screen. Since childhood I have enjoyed that feeling of entering a movie hall when the lights go off and the usher guiding you to your seat. And then it all begins and the experience takes you to some other world. Nothing can replace this feeling. You also get to witness the instant reaction of people. The public can be transparent with their likes and dislikes. I feel that the theatres should be allowed to open and the exhibitors will take precautions. They could follow the airlines model with only a limited amount of occupancy. After all, some occupancy is better than no occupancy.

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