Film exhibitors in Karnataka are hoping for packed theatres from October


Nod for 100% occupancy from Oct. 1; at least 4 big films waiting in the wings

With the State government removing all restrictions and allowing 100% occupancy in theatres from October 1, there is renewed activity in the Kannada film industry. Exhibitors, who are currently operating theatres at 50% occupancy, have heaved a sigh of relief.

At least four big films are waiting in the wings and producers are working towards releasing them now that restrictions have been lifted, said sources. These include Bhajarangi 2 starring Shivarajkumar, Kotigobba 3 starring Sudeep, Salaga with Duniya Vijay, and Rakshit Shetty’s 777 Charlie.

D.R. Jairaj, chairperson of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the government’s decision and said it was a shot in the arm for the industry which had been badly affected by the pandemic.

“Because occupancy was restricted to 50%, no big films have hit the screens since the second wave of the pandemic, which in turn, has had an adverse impact on the footfall. With restrictions removed, we hope commercial blockbusters hit big screens and draw people back to theatres,” said Mr. Jairaj, who is also an exhibitor.

Waiting for other States

While it’s curtains up for the Kannada film industry, exhibitors may have to wait longer for business to return to pre-pandemic levels. “Theatres are completely closed in Maharashtra, which accounts for nearly 30% of revenue for Hindi films. Only after Mumbai theatres open will big Hindi films release,” said a senior executive at a multiplex chain. The Maharashtra government on Saturday announced that theatres and auditoriums in the State would be allowed to open from October 22, but it is yet to issue SOPs.

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“It’s not just Hindi blockbusters, but also Tamil films. The government has still restricted occupancy of theatres in Tamil Nadu to 50%,” sources said.

K.V. Chandrashekhar, chairman of the Karnataka Film Exhibitors Association, said theatres were gearing up to ensure that films were screened in adherence to all safety protocols prescribed by the government. Masks would be mandatory for all members of the audience, and theatres would be sanitised after every show.

However, there may be challenges in limiting audience members to those who have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. “There are some practical difficulties. Many would have booked tickets online. How can we refuse to let them in at the theatre? We are working on these issues and have roped in ticket booking platforms as well. We are confident of finding a way out,” said Mr. Chandrashekhar.



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Sagar Biswas

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