People want to get out of their homes and watch new movies, says Sanjeev Kumar Bijli of PVR Cinemas

What will be the ‘new normal’ once cinema theatres open after the coronavirus pandemic?   | Photo Credit: DANISH SIDDIQUI

With economies around the world barely surviving the onslaught of COVID-19, the entertainment sector – in particular, cinema theatres along with sports and concerts – have been one of the worst affected as governments continue to be cautious about congregation of large crowds in closed and open spaces.

Acknowledging the public health concerns and challenges in his industry, Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR Ltd., one of the biggest multiplex chains with more than 800 screens spread across major Indian cities, said that health screenings at cinemas and malls, ensuring physical distancing and proper hygiene and providing a ‘contact-less’ experience in cinemas will be the utmost priority and go a long way in instilling confidence in the public.

In a telephonic interview with The Hindu, Mr. Bijli said that the response from the people after cinemas opened in countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, parts of Europe and in few cities in the United States, has been positive.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to start operations by middle of June or starting of July with a fair amount of economic activity opening up in India and with theatres opening around the world. People want to get out of their house and watch new movies. We have grown and thrived as societies after dealing with monumental and seemingly insurmountable tragedies, such as World War II etc. This is what is going to happen now as well,” says Mr. Bijli.

While OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have become the most preferred form of entertainment for people across the globe, Mr. Bijli says cinema theatres will become one of the preferred forms of entertainment once the lockdown ends.

Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR Ltd

Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, Joint Managing Director, PVR Ltd  

“With the pandemic cutting down on travel, watching movies in theatres will become one of the most convenient forms of entertainment. People will want to watch new movies. Our survey shows that 45% of the respondents have said that they would love to come back – if the theatres provide proper hygiene and adequate physical distancing,” he said.

He said that extensive safety measures have been conceived and put in place by PVR Cinemas in its properties to safely resume playing big movies again.

“Customer will go through two levels – first at the mall as most multiplexes are housed inside the malls and then again at the cinemas where there would be temperature checks, making masks and gloves compulsory and so on. We will ensure that touch points inside the cinemas will be minimal – by insisting on digital tickets, cashless transactions in food counters and so on. We also plan to sell more pre-packaged food – such as Nachos, pop corn and softdrinks – and ensure seating with adequate social distancing,” he said.

Mr. Bijli also said that they would frequently disinfect auditoriums, clean air conditioning ducts more often than pre-Covid-19 times.

Asked about the impact on the revenue if the multiplexes have to sell lesser number of seats to ensure physical distancing between patrons, Mr. Bijli said that change in customer behaviour will even out any loss in revenue.

“The seating capacity will reduce dramatically. But, our luxury class seats already have adequate distancing between the seats. Despite reducing seating to 60% of the overall capacity, the revenue will not drastically reduce. The average occupancy in move theatres is anyway 35% and we expect that there would be more crowds during the weekdays since people may want to avoid the crowds during the weekends. With differential pricing, the losses may be evened out,” he said.

Recently, producers of actor Jyothika’s Pon Magal Vandhal said that they would release the movie directly on Amazon Prime Video due to the uncertainty created by the lockdown. There were strong rumours that actor Akshay Kumar’s Laxmi Bomb and Sooryavanshi – starring Akshay Kumar, Ranveer Singh and Ajay Devgn – would have a direct OTT release.


Will producers flocking towards OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to release their movies threaten the exhibition business? Mr. Bijli does not think so.

“We are primarily social beings – we want to get out and entertain ourselves and that’s going to happen in Cinemas only. The whole talk about producers releasing movies on OTT platforms…as far as I know, they are only considering it. It is not a done deal. We both realise we need each other. We are working towards a solution that is a win-win for both of us. The statements by producers were made in panic. The big screen continues to be the barometer for a film’s success – the satellite rights, the digital rights are all decided by how well the film does in the theatres,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 7:59:53 AM |

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