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Day 1 – Opening of theatres turned out to be a bit of a damp squib


Few theatres reopened in several parts of the city on Thursday after a gap of seven months with a few film enthusiasts venturing warily into movie-watching in a Covid-19 ‘contactless’ era of alternate seating, 50 percent capacity, and packed snacks. While other theatres remain shut on Thursday citing costs and other reasons, even though they are allowed to open under Unlock 5.0.

In Vizag, INOX Varun Beach, belonging to the INOX chain, symbolically played an old movie, “Bhisma”. While the English film ‘Viking’ screened in Jagadamba theatre. And Sangam and Sarat remained shut. In Guntur and Vijayawada, leading multiplex chain PVR sampled reopening on Thursday by having their employees as the audience at some of its screens across the country.

Under the regional cinema category, the PVR multiplex chain listed forthcoming Telugu movies such as ‘Solo Bratuke So Better’, ‘Love Story’, and ‘Vakeel Saab’ as the forthcoming attractions without a date. “At present, the need of the hour is to built consumer confidence and following the guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Future looks for screening is promising and we are working very hard to bring the most exciting content to our patrons in the following weeks,” said PVR Cinemas chief executive Gautam Dutta.

The main reason is being cited by the exhibitors for not reopening is the high maintenance costs to run a theatre. Various representatives of the Andhra Pradesh Film Exhibitors Association requested the government to waive the power charges incurred by the theatres during the lockdown, to which the Chief Minister has reportedly agreed. Similarly, there are also not many big movies waiting to be screened in the theatres as there were no film shootings for a long time due to the Covid-induced lockdown.

Quite a few movies featuring big stars like Mahesh Babu, Allu Arjun, and Prabhas are expected to hit the screens only in January next year for the Sankranti festival. Also, shootings haven’t picked up yet and they may pick up speed only if the cinema halls reopen. So it will take some time for new films to release,” noted producer-director Anil Sunkara said

According to the employee, the movie business in the state is driven by some 4-5 big Telugu film industry families who are ruling the business as they have allegedly made it their fiefdom. On top of that, sitting in Hyderabad, they decide which theatre will receive the password to screen the movie and which theatre will,” said the employee. Far from Single-screen independent theatres, there is no room for multiplexes to manipulate ticket sales as they clearly pay taxes for each ticket sold, the employee said.

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