Bengaluru: With no new movies available for screening, theater owners in Bengaluru are a concerned lot despite the state government allowing theatres to operate at 50% capacity.
With film producers not keen on releasing their movies until 100% occupancy at theatres is announced, theatres owners are left in the lurch.
The government on July 18 had allowed the reopening of cinema halls, multiplexes, theatres, rangamandiras, auditoriums and similar places of entertainment. However, the order said that they will be allowed to operate at only 50% seating capacity and strictly adhering to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and SOPs issued by the concerned departments.
Karnataka Film Exhibitors’ Association president KV Chandrasekhar said even though the government’s decision to reopen theatres come as a relief, they have not received any word from any producers on releasing movies. “The single-screen theatres in the state depend on a lot of Kannada movies. No producers have announced any movie for this week or for that matter next weekend. So, many theatres still remain shut,” he said on XX
According to the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, Karnataka has around 630 single-screen theatres and around 260 multiples theatres. More than 1200,000 employees work at these establishments.
Chandrashekar said that most of the theatres have been paying their employees half their salaries during the lockdown. “The minimum salary of an employee at a single screen theatre is around ₹13,000 to 14,000. With no movies running and without a clear picture about when big movies will release, these theatre owners are running into losses,” he said.
An office-bearer of the Kannada Film Producers Association (KFPA), said on the condition of anonymity that film producers were facing their own problems. “It is a difficult situation; we are still not sure if people will come to theatres because of the fear of the third wave. We are not sure if the movies will get enough audience if they are released now. If you look from the exhibitor’s side also, if people don’t come to theatres, they won’t make any money either,” said the official.
He said that in the coming days, meetings will be held with concerned authorities on how the situation can be improved.
Meanwhile, a distributor based in Bengaluru said that during the lockdown, producers have an affinity towards the online streaming platforms. “If you look at last year, a lot of movies are getting premiered on the OTT platforms and most of the producers are making handsome profits. In fact, there are many movies now, that are made only for streaming,” said the distributor, who didn’t want to be named.
However, the official at KFPA said that streaming can’t be an alternative for theatres. “Most of the movies in our industry are made for theatre experience. “These movies make money when people come to the theatres, there are buyers for these movies online because these are mass movies. So, finding a solution to make people get back to theatres is important,” he said.
Karnataka government on July 8 had ordered a complete waiver of property tax on single-screen theatres for the financial year 2021-22, after the Karnataka State Film Exhibitors Association submitted a detailed memorandum to CM BS Yediyurappa, citing the problems faced by the industry during the lockdown.
Chandrashekar said that despite this announcement from the government, the benefit of this wavier will take time to reach the pockets of some theatre owners. “Most of the theatre owners had paid their property taxes in time and the announcement came much after this. It takes times for these refunds to come to people’s accounts,” he added.