‘150 single-screen theatres in State likely to shut permanently’

Film industry’s hopes of revival dashed as they stay closed while malls reopen today

The State government’s decision to keep theatres closed while allowing malls, shops and commercial establishments to open their doors to the public from Monday has come as a huge blow to the film industry.

With a long list of films – potentially blockbusters in multiple languages – waiting to hit the screens, the industry was hoping to be allowed to open on Monday as part of unlock 3.0.

The film exhibition industry has already crossed the tipping point and nearly 150 of the total 640 single screens are likely to be closed permanently, said K.V. Chandrashekhar, chairperson, Karnataka Film Exhibitors’ Association. “We have always been the first to be shut down and the last to open up during the pandemic. In the last 15 months, we have been closed for over 12 months. The government has refused to give us a helping hand, spelling doom for many theatres,” he said.

Film exhibitors have been demanding waiver of property tax, licence renewal fee and fixed charges in electricity bills, none of which the State government has agreed to. “Several other States such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala have come to the aid of exhibitors, but not Karnataka,” Mr. Chandrashekhar pointed out.

D.R Jairaj, chairman, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, said chamber and industry representatives will meet the government on Tuesday, seeking a relief package.

Exhibitors have evinced little interest in operating at 50% capacity as it is not financially feasible. “Only full occupancy will allow us to make some business. Even at 50% restricted occupancy, we will end up incurring more losses opening than remaining closed. If a third wave hits the State, the industry is doomed,” said an exhibitor, who did not wish to be named.


However, the multiplex sector seems a little better placed. As multiplex theatres contribute to over 30% of footfall in malls they are housed in, mall owners cannot afford to have them shut down. Many mall owners are more receptive to accommodating their concerns. In most cases, there has been a rebate in rent and maintenance charges during the lockdown and a revenue sharing model once they open up, a luxury that single screens don’t have. This has cushioned the multiplex sector.

“Theatres have opened up in Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and a few other States. In the coming weeks, we expect theatres to be allowed to screen films in Maharashtra, Delhi, Kerala, and Karnataka. There is a long list of films waiting to hit the screens and with the vaccination drive picking up we are hopeful that people will flock to theatres, unlike after the first wave last year,” said a senior employee with a leading multiplex chain.

Some of the films that have been lined up for release are the Akshay Kumar starrer Bell Bottom, KGF- Chapter II, Mohanlal’s Marakkar: Lion of the Arabian Sea and Chiranjeevi starrer Acharya. Several big ticket films from Hollywood, too, are ready to hit the screens.

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Sagar Biswas

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