Kolkata cinema hall owners not optimistic about post-lockdown revival

Kolkata, May 6 () Owners of single-screen movietheatres in Kolkata are not very optimistic about the revivalof the ailing sector after the lifting of the lockdown, sayingthe pandemic has affected the concept of watching movies in agathering.

However, they are hopeful that the movie theatres willretain their loyal audiences.

"We have to scale down our theatre's seating capacityby tweaking the arrangement of seats. We also have to stopscreening back-to-back shows to ensure that people do not bumpinto one another," Navin Chokhani, owner of Navina Cinema insouth Kolkata told .

Chokhani also felt that movies meant for big screenscannot be released solely on over-the-top (OTT) platforms(streaming on the internet) as a section of the audience willreturn to the theatres after the return of normalcy.Advertisement

"There have always been audiences who watch films onthe internet and people who rush to the nearby theatres.Producers will definitely keep that in mind," he said, inresponse to a query whether producers will opt for OTT if therelease of their films is delayed indefinitely due to theCOVID-19 outbreak.

Arijit Dutta, owner of Priya Entertainments PrivateLtd that runs Priya Cinema on Rashbehari Avenue -- said theCOVID-19 outbreak has dealt a severe blow to the strugglingsingle screens and it will be difficult for them to make acomeback after the lockdown is lifted.

"When the halls reopen, social distancing has to beensured because of which show timings will have to be changedand releases will be fewer in number. It is difficult to saywhether running single screens will be even viable after allthis," Dutta said.
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He said the distribution business will suffer due tothe crisis which may lead to the emergence of other digitalmediums.

Dutta felt the producers of medium-budget films mightgo for alternatives, OTT platforms included, if the impassecontinues as they have a lot of things at stake."We have to think of ways for sustenance asoverdependence on OTT will kill the single screens and theexisting distribution model," he said.Advertisement

Dutta, however, said he is not losing all hopes as hehas seen ups and downs in the sector during his long years inthe industry.

Film distributor and hall owner Satadip Saha said 200single screens were operating in West Bengal before thelockdown, of which at least 60-70 may never open again afterthe lockdown is lifted.

If major films are not released in cinema halls in thecoming days, the entire single screen sector will go into acomatose situation, a member of Eastern India Motion PicturesAssociation, the apex body of cinema halls and distributors inthe region, said.Advertisement

Suranjan Paul, owner of Minar, Bijali and Chhabigharmovie halls, however, hoped that screening of films in thetheatres cannot discontinue in the long run.

"The release of some films on the OTT platform can bean immediate response in the wake of the present situation dueto the lockdown but the quality of these screenings cannotmatch that of the big screens. Our loyal audience willdefinitely return once the situation normalises," he said.

The Multiplex Association of India, in a statement,said, "We would like to urge all studio partners, producers,artistes and content creators to support the cinema exhibitionsector, a vital part of the value chain, by holding andreleasing their films in the theatres, once they open again."Advertisement

"We urge all studios, producers, artistes and othercontent creators to kindly respect the exclusive theatricalwindow, which has been a time-tested industry practice, agreedto by all stakeholders, not just in India but even globallyfor several decades," it said.

The MAI hoped that after the crisis ends, thecombination of pent-up demand and promise of new movies willboost the film business and contribute to reviving theindustry.

"The collective, social experience of watching filmson the big screen needs to be preserved and it can be done soonly with the collective support of all the stakeholders," itsaid.Advertisement

A spokesperson of the association said, "We all hopethe crisis will end soon and people will return to thetheatres to watch movies on the big screens." SUSACD ACD
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