The show must go on. In the film industry, this adage is now more relevant than ever as both cinema halls, production houses and audiences gear up for a return in the post-lockdown world.
In the United States, California movie theatres have declared they will reopen from 12 June with limited capacity. The state has issued guidance adding movie theatres to a list of other businesses that will reopen as California relaxes the shelter-in-place orders much like other regions across the world.
This has sparked new hope across Hollywood movie studios as enough theatres may reopen to hold late-summer blockbuster season.
Warner Bros plans to release tenet and Walt Disney Co aims to debut Mulan both in July. One of the most important regions in the film industry is the Los Angeles County. The National Association of Theatre Owners has predicted 90% of movie theatres reopening globally by mid-July. Even film and TV production in the US will be allowed to resume shooting from June 12.
Closer home, Good Newwz will be re-released theatrically in Dubai on June 11 as Dubai theatres are preparing to reopen this week.
Theatres in India likely to open in July
Talks with the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) in India last week have given fresh hopes to theatre owners across the country. It is likely that in the phased lifting of the lockdown, theatres may reopen by July.
It is likely that F&B sales are impacted initially with many guests choosing to stay away from outside food. Yet, if the surge in takeaway orders at restaurants are anything to go by, this reluctance might be short-lived.
Once theatre operators receive the final green signal from the government, the process of sanitation and disinfection will begin. Audiences too are eager to get back to cinema halls per a recent Ormax survey.
The report “Back to the Theatre’ indicates that 82% of cinema-going audiences are missing the theatrical experience the most during the lockdown. A vast majority believe they will go back to the theatres in 2-3 weeks of reopening.
Sanitization precautions and social distancing measures will play a critical role in this decision to visit. The Multiplex Association of India with FICCI has already presented a safety and precautions plan for theatres to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and respective state governments.
The plan includes new hygiene practices, social distancing mandates, the use of protective gear and a revised auditorium seating plan. Similar to global cinema norms, the standard auditorium will have every alternate seat empty. However, families, couples or groups might still be seated together.
We will see innovation in the movie-going experience right from contact-less ticket updates and using technology to order food and beverages. The use of single-use disposable packaging will also increase.
In fact, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) has requested studio partners, producers, content creators and artistes to hold their content for a while and release them in theatres when they reopen. MAI believes that when the crisis ends, a combination of factors like the “pent-up-demand” and the promise of fresh and new content will boost the movie business and revive the industry.
Interestingly, the Ormax survey also backs this up. However, one key point to remember is that theatre-specific measures and local COVID situation will bear an impact on the audience’s decision. Effective communication and messaging by theatre chains will play a crucial role in winning back the movie goers’ trust.