As the Union government announced further relaxations under Unlock 4.0, theaters and multiplexes have not been allowed to open yet. Concerned for the sustenance of cinema halls, theater owners and film producers in Karnataka say that the both the Centre and the state government have perpetually neglected the film industry’s pleas, which has led to a loss of over Rs 1,000 crore in the last five months.
With metro rails being allowed to operate from September 1 in many states, the Karnataka Film Exhibitors’ Association, questioned why the government is not allowing theaters to open and if the situation persists, over 650 single screens would have to shut down permanently.
“Metro is being allowed to operate in many states. It uses air conditioning and over 4 lakh people travel on these trains. If you put together all the single screen theaters with 50% capacity, it amounts to anywhere between 50,000 to 60,000 people at any given point of time. So, people can travel by metro and the government doesn’t care about the spread of coronavirus but it has a problem with theaters?” questioned KV Chandrashekar, President of the Karnataka Film Exhibitors’ Association.
Theater owners say that over the last five months, the single screens alone have suffered losses amounting to Rs 150 crore per month. And that the differences between the demands of theater owners and film producers has led to differences in opinion on how theaters should operate if they reopen.
“The problem we have is that theater owners are fine with reopening at 50% capacity in order to maintain distancing. But we want them to open at 100% capacity. When films are made and budgets are set, we would have made them on the assumption that theaters will operate at 100% capacity. Producers would have taken loans for big budget films amounting to Rs 40 to 50 crore per movie. We want the theaters to open at full capacity. We have suffered over Rs 1,000 loss already,” said GK Ramakrishna, President of the Karnataka Film Producers’ Association.
Producers say that at least 8 to 10 big budget films are ready to be released in theaters. Some of the movies awaiting release include Robot, Kotigobba 3, Salaga, Yuvaratna, Pogaru, Kabja and several others. Apart from these big budget films, Ramakrishna said that at least 100 low budget films are awaiting release. He also said that Sandalwood producers are not very keen on releasing films on OTT platforms and without theaters, they would suffer more losses.
“We have to pay a fixed cost to the electricity board. It comes up to Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per theater, per month. Besides, there are maintenance costs and also employees have to be paid. This comes up to Rs 2 lakh per month. Theater owners have to pay Rs 1 lakh to renew their licence every year in January. The government has taken the money and yet has not announced any concessions on electricity bills or whether they would give us leeway to carry forward the amount we have paid for licence next year,” Chandrashekar said.
Theater owners say that even if the government allows them to reopen, only the ones in Bengaluru city would have the capacity to open and that those in other districts would have to wait to see whether distributors would want films to be released in these theaters. “There are many theater owners who have decided to shut down completely. Around 100 of them outside Bengaluru don’t have the capacity to continue,” Chandrashekar said.
The producers, however, maintained that reopening theaters should be done at the same time nationwide. This is because regional language films, bollywood and hollywood films are released in theaters across the country.
“There is a huge market for Telugu and Tamil movies in Karnataka. There is also a market for Malayalam films. Besides, Bollywood and Hollywood movies are released across the country. When producers and distributors rent theaters for their films, we have to keep in mind how many movies in how many languages are getting released. If Tamil Nadu does not allow theaters to open, then Tamil films cannot be released in other states without being released in Tamil Nadu first. This is why theaters across the country should open at once,” GV Radhakrishna.