After Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan requested earlier today that all movie theaters be shut down in the state till March 31, keeping in mind the larger public good, the producers and distributors in the industry have decided to honour his request by shutting down cinemas till March 16.
Due to the coronavirus scare and the latest development of six new cases of COVID-19 being reported in Kerala, the decision has been welcomed. The state has reported 12 positive cases now totally.
"Cinema halls will remain closed till March 16. We have learnt that a government-level review of the general situation will be held on March 16. A decision on whether to extend the period of the closure of theatres will be taken on the basis of the feedback given by the government," said M. Renjith, president of the Kerala Film Producers' Association.
A joint meeting of the the trade bodies representing the exhibitors, producers, technicians and distributors was held after the government imposed major restrictions on public gatherings across the State following the spike in COVID-19 cases. Mr. Renjith said that the shooting of nearly 20 Malayalam films was progressing at various locations in the State.
"We have asked the producers of these movies to take a call on whether to suspend the work based on the health scenario prevailing at the various shooting locations," he said. The meeting decided that the movies that were enjoying a good run at the box-office till Tuesday will get a chance to continue screening once the cinemas open following the temporary shut down.
The big-budget release in Kerala this March was to be director Priyadarshan and Mohanlal’s Marakkar Lion of the Arabian Sea , which also stars a huge ensemble cast.
The film traces the life of the naval chief captain of the Zamorin of Calicut (present name Kozhikode) Kunjali Marakkar IV, who is essayed by Mohanlal, and is based on the 16th century warrior who mobilized the country’s first naval force to battle the Portuguese invasion.
Another film to have a delayed release will be Tovino Thomas-starrer Kilometers and Kilometers , a comedy movie, which is written and directed by Jeo Baby.
However, now the release of the historical epic will be postponed. Further, if the situation escalates, April releases like the Tamil films — Vijay’s Master and Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru — will also not release in Kerala.
Distributors also said that there has been a major dip in collections in the past two days, especially in Pathanamthitta and Kottayam, where COVID-19 cases were reported. They added that the respective directors of Malayalam films can take a call on whether shooting of ongoing films have to continue.
After reopening the theatres, the release priority will be for the March releases as per the initial discussion with producers, say the distributors in the industry.
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads in India, it remains to be seen if other film industries will follow suit by closing theatres.