After nearly eight months, curtains will go up in most theatres and multiplexes in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. They will be screening films released before the pandemic and old movies that are of interest to the audience.
In pockets such as Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchi, most theatres decided to open only on November 12 or 13 after clarity on films that are likely to be released during the festival week. A few theatre owners pointed out that it was not auspicious to resume business on a Tuesday, adding that they would start work from Wednesday.
Most standalone theatres said bookings were quite low, while the bigger ones said they had managed to get 20% bookings in the 50% seats that can be allotted to the audience.
Theatre owners have positively indicated that more movie-goers will come in before the show commences. To lure customers in, many theatres have also slashed prices of food and beverages.
“We will be opening our theatre on Wednesday as Tuesday is not an auspicious day. But we have opened bookings and the response has not been good. We have received only 3% bookings, but we will run the show,” said a city-based theatre owner, who has been in the business for over two decades.
Udeep B., managing director of Mayajaal, said, “We are opening theatres with films that were running in March — Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal, starring Dulquer Salmaan; Dharala Prabhu and Oh My Kadavule. We will get clarity on Deepavali releases in another day or two and based on that, we will chalk out our Deepavali plans.”
Sathyam Cinemas will open its doors for patrons on Tuesday. All screens under PVR Cinemas will go live and bookings have already begun. According to a note issued by PVR Cinemas, the brand has reopened with a strategic focus on building customer confidence as its primary objective. For this, innovative schemes and promotions have been introduced on pricing as well as content.
Currently, PVR Cinemas is releasing Break the Silence, in addition to some popular releases from the past, like Dharala Prabhu, Oh My Kadavule, Hit and Bheeshma, along with award-winning Hollywood blockbusters like My Spy, 1917 and Joker, among others.
Archana Kalpathi, CEO, AGS Cinemas, said, “We are finally opening with actor Vijay’s Bigil. We have introduced a lot of technology to monitor patrons and ensure that they adhere to physical distancing norms.” She added that parking charges would be waived off.
GK Cinema’s Ruban Mathivanan said they would be commencing operations by Wednesday with Dhanush’s Pudhupettai.
Meanwhile, Qube Cinema has condemned the Tamil Film Active Producers’ Association’s (TFAPA) boycott of new releases as theatres are struggling to regain a foothold after the lockdown.
The State government’s decision to allow theatres to reopen has been met with a challenge from TFAPA, which has refused to offer new releases unless the virtual print fees (VPF), paid to the theatres, is abolished altogether.
The issue came up earlier, in 2018, and the entire film industry went on a strike that ended after digital cinema providers reduced VPF rates by over 20%. Till date, digital service providers have offered a drastic reduction of VPF rates, but no compromise has been achieved.
In a statement, Qube Cinema said, “Our industry has faced immense losses over the last seven months due to the lockdown, and we will continue to take time to recoup, as we are being allowed to operate only at 50% capacity for the time being. Qube Cinema had initially, and proactively, announced a 50% reduction in VPF during the period, which was later amended to 60% after pressure from TFAPA, who now insist on a complete elimination of the fees.” Qube Cinema said both the Central and State governments had supported the view that the tradition of new releases for Deepavali should continue this year, which is why the boycott by TFAPA was not just unethical towards theatres and digital cinema providers, but also unfair to the audiences.
Qube Cinema added, “It is our understanding that producers who have been eager to release new films have been pressured to conform to the boycott. The TFAPA is leveraging this unprecedented period of struggle to gain as many concessions as possible from theatres and digital service providers, for itself, without regard for how it affects the industry at large or the cinema audience.” Qube Cinema said this was a time when the industry should come together to ensure that cinema survives.