Come September, cinemas ready with discounts on movie tickets, food

Topics Coronavirus | theatres | Lockdown

Most operators have also lined up discounts between 15 and 30 per cent on tickets, food and beverages as well as consumer promotions as part of their reopening plans
Movie halls in India, shut since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, expect to reopen their doors in September. While most other businesses including malls, salons, gyms, restaurants and marketplaces have reopened as part of a phase-wise Unlock programme, theatres have remained out of the purview so far.

Cinema owners, especially, multiplex operators hope this will be corrected in the fourth phase of the Unlock programme that will commence next month. Most operators have also lined up discounts between 15 and 30 per cent on tickets, food and beverages as well as consumer promotions as part of their reopening plans.

“It has been nearly six months that theatres have been closed. There is pent-up demand. Most players including us have discount schemes and offers in place to encourage footfalls, which will extend for at least two months after theatres reopen,” says P V Sunil, managing director, Carnival Cinemas.

Safety and hygiene standards will also be strictly implemented to ensure patrons feel comfortable when they get back into movie halls, he says. 
A September reopening, say industry experts, will also give operators enough time to prepare for the Dussehra-Diwali period, which is a key one for the film exhibition business. Typically, Bollywood and other regional film industries line up their important releases in the October-December period, which coincides with the festive season.


Though movie makers have been forced to turn to the digital medium to release their films in the last few months, that may not be required now if movie halls reopen.

Single-screen and multiplex operators are likely to meet officials of the Maharashtra government this week to discuss the way forward in terms of reopening, it is reliably learnt. At the same time, the central government is likely to issue standard operating procedures to be followed by movie halls, once they reopen next month, industry officials said.

Devang Sampat, chief executive officer, Cinepolis India, who is also director at the Multiplex Association of India, says that the industry is in dialogue with film producers on their schedule of releases over the next few months, since content remains key for the film exhibition business.

Blockbusters such as Sooryavanshi, starring Akshay Kumar, Lal Singh Chaddha, starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan, and 83, featuring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, will release in movie theatres between October and January, industry sources said.
Multiplex operators also hope that guidelines issued by the central government for reopening in September may address the critical issue of capacity permitted within movie halls. The buzz earlier was that only 25 per cent of capacity would be permitted during reopening, which players say may not be enough. Experts now say that the government may permit 50 per cent capacity in keeping with industry demand.

Estimates are that maintenance costs of movie halls could shoot up by around 20-25 per cent in the post-Covid world, though multiplexes could compensate for it by cutting headcount within properties as operations increasingly get digitised to minimise contact. Occupancy levels, which before the Covid-19 crisis stood at 35-36 per cent on an average for multiplexes, could settle at levels of around 25-30 per cent after the initial three to six months lapse following reopening.

Some of the measure that will greet patrons when theatres reopen will be seat distancing, contactless service and rigorous hygiene from entry to exit. Movie-goers will be encouraged to pre-book their tickets and meals, wear masks when watching films and maintain strict lane discipline when entering and exiting movie halls. House-keeping will acquire disproportionate importance and staff will be checked from time to time to ensure they have no health concerns.

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