Standalone theatre owners in Madurai face bleak future

A view of Thanga Regal theatre on Town Hall Road in Madurai

A view of Thanga Regal theatre on Town Hall Road in Madurai   | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

Theatre owners say they are ready to take safety precautions and ensure physical distancing, but are afraid of low patronage, especially with no air conditioning

Standalone theatre owners in Madurai say that for the next six months, business looks bleak for them in the post-lockdown period. Though the theatres are already working towards creating a safe environment for patrons, there might be lower patronage after the lockdown period, they say.

M. Rathinakumar, executive member of Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association, says that there are around 40 standalone theatres in the city, including many small-sized theatres.

All the theatres are regularly being cleaned and maintained, even amidst the lockdown period, says R. Ramesh, proprietor of Thanga Regal theatre, which is around 110 years old. “To create a safe movie-watching experience, we have planned to install disinfection machines, so that all the movie lovers are completely disinfected before they enter the theatre. Also, to avoid crowding at the food and beverages section, food will be delivered to their seats,” he says.

R. Kannan, proprietor of Devi-Kalaivani theatre in Tirunagar, says that the auditoriums and toilets will be thoroughly disinfected after the end of every movie. Wearing face masks will be mandatory. “But, almost all the standalone theatres have installed centralised air conditioning units in view of competition from multiplexes. Screening movies without air conditioners would be a tough task,” he says.

The theatres are also ready to work with 30% occupancy ratio as a means to ensure physical distancing, says Mr. Rathinakumar. “But, with fixed ticket costs, the theatre owners could suffer loses, especially for the movies of big cinema stars,” he says.

Despite taking these safety measures, there might be lower patronage as the footfall of movie lovers visiting the theatres had gradually come down over the years, he says. “Only during the release of movies of big stars, is there actually a good crowd at the theatres. Gone are those days when the entire town would descend on the streets and head to theatres,” he says.

“In addition, it would take at least six months to reinstate confidence among movie lovers that theatres are a safe environment. Also, there is stiff competition from online platforms and websites,” says Mr. Rathinakumar.

But, with the resumption of post-production work, we are hopeful that movies will be released within the next few months, adds Mr. Kannan.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 8:03:48 PM |

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