Indians love to venture out to watch movies with families and friends but will the cinema viewing change post Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)? FilmiBeat speaks to the cinema exhibition industry leads and cinema trade experts in India to understand how movie-watching will change after the lockdown is over.
Alok Tandon, CEO, Inox Cinemas feels nothing is going to change post COVID-19. He says, "We are absolutely sure that cinema-going is not going to change at all in our country post COVID-19. We know that with our concerted efforts, combined with the passion for cinema viewing in our country, we will witness the same fervour and vibrancy in the business, something which we have been known for."
But seeing the global aftermath of Coronavirus, there might be some fear in movie-goers' minds and some people might need convincing to step into the theatre to watch movies.
To this, Tandon says, "It would require us to do a lot to gain the confidence of our patrons and we have identified various ways to deal with it. On the operational front as well, we will have to innovate and think differently to ensure social distancing once the cinemas resume services. We will continue to carry out temperature checks at the entrances. Hand sanitisers will remain available across the floor. Deep cleaning and disinfecting processes will continue to remain intense." ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Bollywood Screenwriters On How Storytelling Will Change Post COVID-19
But how do you maintain social distancing inside the auditorium?
Tandon cites some precautionary measures to make the cine-goer feel secure. He says, "Cross-allocation of seats is one measure, which would allow us to ensure that two guests are not assigned adjacent seats. We will have to block the seats accordingly, so that the seats are available in this manner, whether booking at the box office, or on an online platform."
He adds, "Another measure can be to programme the shows in such a manner that intermissions of two shows do not occur simultaneously. This will help us to ensure that the food counters and restrooms do not get too crowded. We will keep the intensity high on kitchen stewarding."
But this will result in lesser number as far as seat occupancy is concerned. And, of course, the HOUSEFULL scenario is likely to change. Tandon says, "We may even consider limiting the overall seat allocation to 50-60% for some shows to control overcrowding, if the need arises."
This arrangement might affect the box office openings and hamper the overall collection of a film. Increasing the ticket rates is also not an option since the economy is already hit badly and people will think twice before spending lavishly on tickets plus popcorn, snacks and beverages at the movies. The only good thing coming out of this will be that movies might stay in theatres for more weeks, albeit if movie-goers continue to step out of their homes.
The situation for Hollywood movies is similar. Most of the cinema halls in USA are temporarily closed and most film releases put on hold, while the cinema halls in some pockets are following the directives of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Mohan Umrotkar, CEO, Carnival Cinemas, also hints at following the same post the lockdown. He says, "The WHO has suggested maintaining a metre (or about three feet) distance between people. Depending on the situations, Carnival might restrict the number of maximum ticket buyers per screen. We want to assure our audience that our theatres, seats and concession areas are being thoroughly and frequently cleaned during this time also. Our in-cinema and security staff shall continue using the masks and gloves to maintain the hygiene and shall provide it to the patrons on request as well."
Umrotkar further adds, "This kind of situation is unique and hence demands extraordinary measures. After the end of lockdown, when the authorities will allow us to open our doors to the public, to counter the spread of COVID-19, Carnival Cinemas shall follow the global hygiene norms and shall introduce 'seat separation' policies, along with sanitisation and deep cleaning of auditoria in between shows to help facilitate social distancing. Hand sanitisers are available at all touch points in cinemas since February 2020 and we will keep it till the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic doesn't subside."
With the lockdown in India likely to be extended, there are no film releases to happen before June 2020. Most trade pundits feel that the audience will only trickle in post lockdown, and initially small films might make their way to the cinemas. Trade expert Komal Nahta says, "It is not going to be immediate and it all depends on how secure the public is going to be about their safety, and whether Coronavirus is out of India or not. Things will be get better but it is going to take a while. It depends on how much we are able to control the spread of the virus."
Most of the big ticket films like Radhe, Sooryavanshi, Laxxmi Bomb, '83 and many more will not be able to release in theatres on the stipulated date but will hit cinemas only in the last part of the year. ALSO READ: Exclusive: Will Sooryavanshi and '83 Release? Shibasish Sarkar of Reliance Entertainment Reveals
Nahta points out, "People have to forget festivals like Eid and Diwali. In June 2020, things will start with smaller films. Big entertainers will have to wait even longer because the world's cinema have to open; as 40 percent of the revenue share comes from there and they cannot possibly forgo that. It is a very sad state of affairs at present."
(Picture source: OneIndia)