Bringing patrons back to theatres

Theatres are looking at how to operate their business during the initial few weeks after the lockdown

Theatres and multiplexes across Tamil Nadu are mulling options to bring back movie lovers once shows resume. From physical distancing within theatre premises, cleaning the restrooms after every usage, to delivery of food and beverages to the seats, theatres are looking at how to operate their business during the initial few weeks after the lockdown.

PVR Cinemas, one of the largest players in the film exhibition industry, has decided on maintaining physical distancing between seats. CEO Gautam Dutta said leaving one seat between a certain group would eat into 16-20% of capacity, but the brand’s endeavour was to win back confidence of its consumers. “This is a short term measure for 4-6 weeks,” he said. PVR was the first player in the industry to come out and speak on physical distancing within theatre premises.

Udeep B., managing director of Mayajaal Cinemas, said that his group would be selling tickets for alternate seats, like airlines. “We will be sanitising theatres after every show. We will not have paper tickets and instead will have m-tickets,” he said, adding that tough times lay ahead for the sector, for at least the next one year.

The team at AGS Cinemas is looking at how to work out seating arrangements. Archana Kalpathi, CEO, AGS Cinemas, said, “We are putting together a sanitation plan and trying to see how temperature checks can be done for our patrons in a short duration.” The group is also looking at disposable seat cover options, but fixed ticket pricing is a challenge, she said.

Nikilesh Surya, exceutive director of Rohini Silver Screens, is planning to enforce physical distancing, but is waiting to see how the situation will unfold in the coming weeks.

Tamil Nadu has 1,213 screens, with over 6.36 lakh seats. According to estimates, a one-day closure of all theatres in the State will lead to an average loss of ₹8 crore a day.

Standalone theatres in tier-two towns, including Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchi, have similar plans. P. Dinesh Kumar, proprietor of Guru Theatre in Madurai, said, “To avoid crowding at the food and beverages section, we are working on getting food delivered to the seats. The menu will be displayed on the screen and we will have our teams go around to take down orders,” he said.

Senthil Kumar, co-founder of Qube Cinema Technologies, said that physical distancing and deep cleaning between shows would give people extra confidence. He pointed out that screens across the globe would need to open for the Tamil film industry. “Screens will need to open in the U.S., U.K., Middle East, Singapore and Malaysia, before big movies release, because overseas markets are very important,” he added.

Theatres across the State are working on the economics of installing hand-washing stations and disinfectant spraying booths. “We also need to wait and see what kind of guidelines the Tamil Nadu government will give us, in terms of operating for the initial few weeks,” said a produce-cum-theatre owner in Madurai, who wished anonymity.

He suggested that once the lockdown ends, the entire film fraternity should come together and see how they can work for the initial few months. “From producers to directors to technicians and actors, the lockdown has impacted everyone. We need to work together and see how to infuse positivity among movie goers,” he said.

Given the fact that there will be fewer releases to begin with, the theatres in Tamil Nadu feel that they will be able to compensate the loss on seats by playing the film in more auditoriums (in the case of multiplexes) and more number of days (in the case of standalone theatres).

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 3:55:11 AM |

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