UPDATED: The Multiplex Association of India has expressed their disappointment at the Indian government’s decision to keep cinemas closed.
“The government’s decision is against our expectations and will impact millions of livelihoods dependent on the industry. We have been urging the government all along and continuing to engage with the relevant authorities with our plea to allow the cinemas to operate,” the Association said in a statement.
“At this point we are only hopeful that we will be able to convince the authorities about our abilities to ensure a safe environment, and that our plea is reconsidered for an early reopening.”
On Wednesday, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed that cinemas across the country would remain closed at least until Aug. 31.
The third phase of Indian unlocking comes into effect Aug. 1, but in this phased reopening process, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theaters, bars, auditoriums and assembly halls remain prohibited, according to a notice released by the Ministry. Also banned are any social, political, sports, religious or entertainment-related functions.
The news will be a blow to India’s exhibition sector, many of whom were hoping that cinemas would be allowed to reopen from Aug. 1. Last week, the Information & Broadcasting Ministry had recommended to the Home Affairs Ministry that cinemas reopen with safety measures in place, either as early as Aug. 1, or as late as Aug. 31.
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The extended closure will have an impact on several big ticket releases set to open, including keenly anticipated Hollywood titles such as “Tenet,” which plans to release internationally ahead of its U.S. run.
Inox is India’s second largest multiplex chain with 626 screens.
“Christopher Nolan is an extremely popular director and has a huge fan following in India,” Inox CEO Alok Tandon told Variety. “There is already a lot of hype and anticipation around ‘Tenet,’ and [it] is potentially going to pull a lot of viewers to theaters across the country. Considering that some of the scenes were shot in India, and also has an Indian face in the form of Dimple Kapadia, there is an added anticipation for the movie. ‘Mulan’ being an action drama and a remake of an earlier animated super hit, being marketed and distributed by Disney, is also going to be a certain crowd-puller.”
“The current situation of cinema exhibition industry, which is not at the peak of its health, requires tent poles movies as and when circuits begin to open, for a steady revival of the sector,” Tandon added. “We have seen in the West, that even while the governments have allowed the cinemas to operate, some of the chains have not done so, due to the lack of fresh content. If a country-wise staggered release of a movie is an answer to this situation, it can be experimented again.”
The Indian film sector is valued at $2.7 billion, per a recent Deloitte industry report. Hollywood accounts for 13% of revenue share. The country has 8,599 screens.
India now has 1.6 million coronavirus cases, with 35,000 deaths. Cases are going up by 47,000 a day.