Indian cinemas re-open after 7 months | Daily News

Indian cinemas re-open after 7 months

A movie goer gets his temperature checked at the entrance of a cinema theatre in Bangalore on Thursday. - AFP
A movie goer gets his temperature checked at the entrance of a cinema theatre in Bangalore on Thursday. - AFP

INDIA: Cinemas in movie-mad India tentatively re-opened on Thursday but with worries about coronavirus and only old films showing, early punters were few and far between.

The famously cinema-hungry nation has been deprived of physical venues since March, when it entered a serious lockdown that continues today.

The pandemic has clobbered theatres worldwide but in India, home to the planet's most prolific movie industry, it has upended a culture that treats the stars of the silver screen almost like gods.

After the recent loss of several luminaries to coronavirus, cancer and even suicide -- as well as a Bollywood drugs scandal -- the industry is desperate for some good news.

But it may have to wait, with some states still keeping theatres closed -- including Maharashtra and its movie mad capital Mumbai -- and film studios offering no new releases.

At the Sharada Cinema in Bangalore on Thursday, there was only a small trickle of customers for the morning showing of action fantasy "Kaanadante Maayavadanu".

One of those in line was businessman Chandrashekhar Naidu, who said he was "excited" to return to the cinema after the almost seven-month-long coronavirus-imposed hiatus. India's largest operator PVR -- which lost $30 million in the last quarter -- on Thursday was only screening movies for employees, police and their families, before opening to the public on Friday at selected locations. A trip to the cinema remains an affordable pursuit in India, with as little as 75 rupees ($1) buying three hours of drama, dancing and song in air-conditioned luxury.

But with temperature checks at the door, half the seats left empty for social distancing, and only a limited selection of food, the experience now is a far cry from what was previously on offer. Top Bollywood producer Aditya Chopra is also preparing to release "Bunty Aur Babli 2", a sequel to a 2005 hit, at the same time, according to media reports.

But with India's virus cases surging past seven million, the threat of infection remains strong, prompting authorities in Mumbai, the home of Bollywood, to put off reopening cinemas for the time being.

"Mumbai is the heart of the film industry -- if theatres are closed there, half the battle is already lost," said analyst Nahta.

In such uncertain times, if the remaining cinemas are able to sell even half the tickets available -- 25 percent of normal capacity -- they can celebrate, he said.

"If they manage to fill 60 percent of the seats on offer, it will be superb news for the industry." - AFP