Trade analyst Komal Nahta shares insights into the hurdles that will come with the reopening of theatres amidst the pandemic

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Earlier this month, the government announced the reopening of theatres across the country and life is slowly getting back on track with everyone following the new social norms.

Theatres have been shut for almost seven months now and with everyone’s safety in mind, they have been allowed to open up with fifty percent occupancy being allowed. Even though there are murmurs of relief at multiplexes being allowed to open again, there are a few major issues that multiplex owners would have to deal with, the first of them being rentals since most theatres are built on leased properties. Explaining this further, trade analyst Komal Nahta shares, “Since most of the multiplexes of many of the chains are built on leased properties, the question of rents to be paid for the lockdown months when they were shut has to be sorted out with each landlord. There will be the additional tension of re-negotiating the rent for the few months when business is expected to be very slow once cinemas are allowed to reopen. Since social distancing will have to be maintained in the cinemas till the coronavirus scare reduces or dies down completely, multiplexes may end up doing lesser business for weeks or months together.”

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Another underlying issue that will need proper attention is the revenue sharing ration between multiplex owners and producers. Going into detail, Komal Nahta shares, “Producers are already decided that they will ask the multiplexes to give them a much higher share of the box-office collections once business reopens. It may be recalled here that much before any OTT platform announced even a single film for premiere, the multiplexes had, under the aegis of the Multiplex Association of India, requested producers to refrain from choosing the OTT path.”

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Talking a little about how multiplex owners’ are not in favour of releasing films that have already seen OTT releases and why it’s important for cinemas to adapt the forgive and forget policy, the trade analyst shares, “exhibitors will have to forgive and forget. Yes, at first sight, this may seem to be an impractical solution but if the multiplexes and single-screen cinemas truly want a feasible solution to the problem of shortage of playing programmes, this would seem to be the most achievable. The public will be hesitant to return to the cinemas for safety reasons, more so if there are not enough new Hindi films on display.”

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He further adds, “So the best option for the cinemas, after reopening, would be to release all those films which have already been premiered on OTT platforms. Multiplexes and single-screen cinemas will have to adopt the forgive-and-forget policy for their own good.”

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