Even as the notion that cinema viewing in theatres might become a thing of the past due to the coronavirus pandemic gains ground, exhibitors say movie-going and theatres have proven to be super resilient over the years. R Sathish of MGB Grand cinemas, Tirupur, says, “Nothing will stop people from watching movies in theatres. When TV arrived, many predicted the death of big screens. From DVDs to mobile phones, IPL matches, and now, OTT platforms and coronavirus, we have been fighting it all. Doom-mongers have been predicting the end of movie theatres for so long, but we have survived.”
Shanmugasundaram, one of the directors of Aruna Theatres & Enterprises (Udhayam Theatre), says they are fully prepared to function in the ‘new normal’ once the lockdown is lifted. “The safety of our audience is our priority. When all the precautions, like social distancing and sanitisation, are followed, I’m confident there won’t be any fear in the minds of movie-goers,” he says.
A multiplex owner says that cinema is the cheapest form of entertainment, and post COVID-19, when people have scarce resources, that will be a reason for them to go to theatres. Talking about the occupancy issues that may arise out of social distancing, he says even if the government asks them to run theatres with 30% to 50% capacity, they will still be able to manage it. “Only mass-hero movies see 100% occupancy, and that is only on the first three days of their release. Most of the movies are screened with 30-50% occupancy only. So, it will not make a big difference,” he states. However, distributor and exhibitor S Pictures Srinivasan says it will take three to four months for theatres to boom after the lockdown period. “By Deepavali, the theatres will bounce back to normal,” he predicts.