At the movies

Who wants cinema theatres to open in a hurry?

If you thought Telugu filmmakers would rush to the floors to resume shooting, you are mistaken. There is apprehension and visible lack of excitement because no one wants to take any chances.

“It is also not viable to shoot with just 50-60 people when the scene may require the presence of 200 people. What do we do with scenes that need the presence of junior artistes? There is no serious urgency, no one wants to take any chances,” asks D Suresh Babu, producer and owner of Rama Naidu Studios. 

But even as the film shootings are not taking off in a hurry, there is considerable pressure being mounted on the Government of India to open up cinema theatres, much to the dismay of the filmmakers. Their suspicion is that the multiplex chain owners are doing so with an eye on the stock market. 

The filmmakers fear that if cinema halls are opened up in a hurry, it will destroy the film business. South Korea and China opened up its cinema halls to disastrous results with very few takers for the big screen experience. In fact, the Korean Film Council has decided to provide 1.3 million discount coupons that give up to 60 per cent off cinema tickets, to get the public back into the cinemas.

Though the doyens of the Telugu film industry met the Telangana government to push for resumption of movie-related work, there is a realisation that the audience tastes have changed dramatically in the last three months of the lockdown. OTT presents the alternative entertainment option when there is considerable risk involved in going into a theatre. 

Telangana cinematography minister with filmmakers and actors

What will this then mean for the exhibitors?

Over a period of time, cinema screens have shrunk across India. If the producers find the appetite for watching big cinema is less, they will embrace OTT much more and that will push more theatres into closure. Which is why filmmakers want the government to exercise caution and restart theatres at the right time. 

Another point being made is that the decision on when to reopen cinema halls cannot be left to individual state governments. This is because several films, especially those made in south India are released across different languages. Releasing in one state and not in a neighbouring state, would expose the movie to piracy risks. 

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