Theatres and multiplexes in Tamil Nadu have indicated that they will resume operations from November 10 following the standard operating procedure (SOP) laid down by the State and Central governments.
A few standalone theatres said they will wait for another week and take a decision on the basis of the films that are ready for release. If there are no new releases from the Tamil industry, theatre-owners are planning to re-release a few films or screen other language films.
On Saturday, the State government said it would allow theatres and multiplexes to reopen from November 10 with 50% of seating capacity. To create awareness among the audience, theatres have been asked to screen messages on the COVID-19 precautionary measures during the shows.
“Unless there is some big film for Deepavali, we will not reopen the theatre. We would rather wait than incur losses. On normal days, our occupancy rate is 70%; now, with the 50% limit, it does not make sense for us to reopen immediately,” said the proprietor of a popular theatre in the city.
Udeep B., managing director of Mayajaal, said his screens would open on November 10.
“Complete COVID-19 new normal SOP has been set in the multiplex last month itself,” he said.
“There are some films in the pipeline, which we expect to be released. Or we will open with other language films playing in other States. There will be some new release for Deepavali or there are some Hindi films releasing. We will play them,” he said.
‘Patrons will come back’
Archana Kalpathi, CEO, AGS Cinemas, said, “We will be starting on November 10 to test the protocol. Looking at the way restaurants and other places have bounced back, theatres will also see patrons come back if we give them comfort and safety. If there is no new content, we will release movies that were running before COVID-19 broke out.”
Most theatre-owners pointed out that producers were hesitating to release films, wondering whether audiences would risk visiting a theatre. They want to wait and watch. “We have already incurred heavy losses and we don’t want to release films and get stuck again. Families will take more time to visit theatres until the number of COVID-19 cases come down. And patrons aged below 25 will not come unless it is a big star film. I will wait until Pongal,” a producer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The 1,213 screens with over 6.36 lakh seats in the State downed curtains in March. According to estimates, a one-day closure of all theatres will lead to an average loss of ₹8 crore.
Theme park operators are in a dilemma as they rely heavily on schools and children. While a handful of them said they would resume work on November 10, others said they would wait until 2021. “We have a lot of water-rides. So we don’t want to take chances. We will open in March 2021,” said a theme park operator from the southern part of the State.
In Chennai, VGP and a few more amusement park operators said they would reopen this month as soon as their contract workers and employees return.
“We will resume operations on November 10. We will start training our staff in queue management and handling various rides in compliance with the norms prescribed by the government,” said V.G.P. Ravidas, managing director of VGP Universal Kingdom.
Vincent Adaikalraj, director of Black Thunder, said, “We have a park at Udhagamandalam that we will open [after getting approval from the Collector]. With regard to Black Thunder, we will open it at November-end or in summer. We are still evaluating the same.”