Cinema’s long road ahead: what going to the movies post the pandemic might look like

I distinctly bear in mind the roaring in a Chennai theatre when Rajnikanth’s character in Baasha broke a pumpkin on his head and folded his fingers to gesture ‘vanakkam’. More lately, that very loud, collective gasp when Thanos worn out half of humanity, together with a few of our favorite Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War. And after the mind-numbing climax of Sairat, I stayed glued to my seat and wept; as did a number of others in the corridor. Watching a movie in a theatre is a lot extra than simply sinking into a luxurious chair and relishing that bathtub of caramel popcorn. Its singular appeal lies in experiencing a narrative as a collective with strangers.

As are different public institutions, theatres throughout the nation have additionally been in the darkish for weeks now. While nobody is aware of once we will likely be ready to return to savour the movie-watching expertise, it’s apparent that like many companies this one will even change in the post-corona world.

The ‘new’ regular

At current, most of the larger chains are hoping to be up-and-running by the starting of June. Once the authorities provides the go-ahead, they anticipate it to take one other four-to-six weeks earlier than movies begin releasing. The greatest problem for each theatre can be constructing buyer confidence. “After 30-40 days of lockdown, people would want to experience out-of-home entertainment, whether it is going to cinemas, restaurants or malls. But it’s up to us to convince them that it is safe to do so,” says Mohan Umrotkar, CEO Carnival Cinemas.

Among the modifications deliberate are sanitiser stations, paperless transactions and masks for everybody. “We will have to raise the bar now and focus a lot of time, effort and resources on deep cleaning our cinemas beyond the auditorium and lobby areas. We will check the body temperature of customers and employees when they enter the premises,” explains Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures.

Keeping in thoughts the want for social distancing, there’s a risk that not all seats in a cinema corridor can be obtainable on the market. Alok Tandon, CEO, INOX Leisure Ltd says, “We will follow cross-allocation of seats to ensure that distance is maintained among the audience. Online booking modes will be programmed to allocate seats in that order. Screenings will be scheduled in such a manner, that entry, intermissions and exits of two shows do not occur simultaneously, and to avoid crowding of lobbies and restrooms”. Cross allocation of seats signifies that no theatre will see a ‘House Full’ signal for some time and that may undoubtedly impression revenues for each theatres and movie producers.It is due to this fact comprehensible why Gianchandani at PVR Pictures hopes that this measure will solely be short-term. “We hope to have the entire capacity at our disposal within two months or so,” he insists.

A drive-in cinema arrange throughout the COVID-19 outbreak at the Vilnius International Airport, Lithuania
| Photo Credit: ANDRIUS SYTAS

Back to the future

In the 1950s, when the outbreak of polio in the US grew to become extreme, a couple of drive-in theatres marketed that their venue was the good place to be ‘flu and polio protected’. It isn’t a surprise that on this age of social distancing, traditional drive-in theatres in the US, Canada, Germany and South Korea are seeing a surge in recognition. At the Vilnius International Airport in Lithuania, for example, a drive-in cinema has come up in its apron space the place one would normally see parked planes. The initiative, launched as a part of the Vilnius International Film Festival, can accommodate 200 automobiles (two individuals in every automobile) for a single screening.

There have been reviews of patrons driving a couple of hours to get to the closest drive-in theatre in Florida; and of Autokino Essen, one in all the solely two year-round drive-in theatres in Germany, promoting out each screening since early March. In South Korea, whereas massive multiplexes have remained open, Korean film buffs have stayed away, preferring to wait hours to guide tickets in the few drive-in theatres which might be operational.

India at the moment has solely two drive-in theatres — Prarthana (Chennai) and Sunset (Ahmedabad). PVR has plans of beginning one in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex however Gianchandani says it “will take some time before it opens”. But he doesn’t anticipate drive-in theatres in India to overtake multiplexes or single-screens in recognition, and he’s not alone.

Tandon of INOX Leisure lists out elements that work towards them. “The concept comes with its own set of challenges. The biggest one being availability of land parcels closer to the heart of the city. Even if you secure such a land parcel, the possibility of operating only two shows a day would either challenge the commercial viability, or would make the operator charge a premium. Another aspect where the concept would face headwinds would be the climatic conditions in our country. India experiences extremely hot and extremely cold weather, and the mammoth monsoons may not be too friendly either.”

A family drive-in theatre’s opening night in Stephens City, Virginia, on May 1

A household drive-in theatre’s opening night time in Stephens City, Virginia, on May 1  

Straight to digital

For a couple of years now, theatres round the world have rued the lower in footfalls and this has historically been blamed on the rising recognition of streaming companies. Due to the pandemic, individuals are actually filling the void of out-of-home leisure with streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

With the uncertainty of when theatres will reopen and, extra importantly, whether or not audiences will return to them, film producers throughout the nation are considering the deserves of going straight to digital. In Tamil Nadu, information of Jyotika’s upcoming movie, Ponmagal Vandhal (initially scheduled for a March launch) releasing on-line, was met with extreme opposition from theatre house owners. They, together with producers, are actually reportedly framing tips on how to work in tandem, which will likely be adopted post the lockdown.

In Bollywood, there are rumours of at the least half-a-dozen movies being in negotiations with OTT platforms. Most of those are mid-sized movies that may’t afford to wait months for a launch and are in actual hazard of getting cannibalised by larger releases once they lastly do.

Cinema’s long road ahead: what going to the movies post the pandemic might look like

Director Shoojit Sircar whose Gulabo Sitabo starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan was scheduled to launch on April 17, has stated he’s open to the concept of a digital launch. Director-Producer Karan Johar in the previous has usually talked about how ‘big-ticket spectacle films’ will convey audiences again to theatres and commerce analyst Komal Nahata believes that this might be an actual risk for the movie enterprise in the close to future. Among the large finances movies that had been anticipated to hit our display in the first half of 2020 are Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi and Kabir Khan’s 83, Aamir Khan’s Laal Singh Chaddha and Farhan Akhtar’s Toofan. “When this pandemic is over and people are ready to return to theatres, there will be a big backlog and only the big films will survive. These films will not go to OTT because it might not be fiscally feasible,” says Nahata.

Whether we’re watching them in hyper-sanitised theatres, from our automobiles or in properties, there isn’t a doubt that movies will proceed to be an integral a part of India’s social cloth. Like director Christopher Nolan, whose Tenet is one in all the movies postponed indefinitely, wrote lately for The Washington Post, “When this crisis passes, the need for collective human engagement, the need to live and love and laugh and cry together, will be more powerful than ever.”

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