Theatre owners stare at empty halls

Screen test: Moviegoers being checked at a theatre in Vadapalani, Chennai.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

After a prolonged shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, theatres have received a lukewarm reception from audiences when they opened their doors on November 10.

A senior executive of a well-known multiplex chain in India said only 25 tickets per show were being sold on average in Chennai, while several single-screen theatre executives reported that the footfalls had been as low as 20%-25% of the total seats allowed to be sold by the State government.

“We could only sell 25 tickets per show on average. We hope that the release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Wonder Woman in December and the positive news about the arrival of vaccines will make a difference in the coming months,” said the executive of a multiplex.

While producers and theatre owners agree that only movies starring big stars can bring back audiences, the fact that actor Nayanthara’s Mookuthi Amman and actor Suriya’s Soorarai Pottru released directly on OTT (over-the-top) platforms to favourable reviews did not help matters.

Now, the spotlight is on actor Vijay’s Master, which is ready for release, though many in the industry admit that releasing the film in the present situation would not be economically viable.

‘Catch-22 situation’

G. Dhananjayan, vice-president, Tamil Film Active Producers Association, said, “It is a catch-22 situation for us. Movies starring big stars cannot be released unless the present occupancy rate of 50% is increased. It wouldn’t be economically viable. We hope that by Pongal, the situation becomes normal and the occupancy is increased by the government.”

While there were rumours on Friday that Master would release on an OTT platform, the producers of the film, in a statement, said they prefer to release the movie in theatres.

Hariharan, the manager of one of the oldest and well-known cinema houses in Ashok Nagar, said, “The theatres could have planned the reopening better. If we had opened with a movie starring somebody big, it would have brought back audiences. Now, we are selling anywhere between 80-100 tickets out of the 400-odd tickets in our main screen. People also don’t seem to spend money in the canteen”

While the producers of big-budget movies are in a fix, this situation could be used by small and medium budget movies, say theatre owners. Ruban Mathivanan, managing partner, GK Cinemas, said, “Smaller movies would anyway struggle to bring in more than 50% of the crowd. They should release their films when no big movies are lined up. The argument made by the producers of big-budget movies that they will not be able to recoup the money invested with 50% occupancy does not hold true for smaller movies.”

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 7:35:33 AM |

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