One of the positive fallouts of the quarantine and COVID-19 lockdown was that industry experts across sectors put their thinking hats on and met virtually. The result of those countless virtual webinars and discussions is that many sectors now have some clarity as to the best steps forward when it comes to reopening post COVID. One question that inevitably came up during these webinars and discussions was “Will Cinema Halls Fill Up Once Again Post-Covid-19?”
This is a very legitimate concern that many of us from the industry share. What happens in the new normal? Will it be business as usual? How will theatres implement social distancing and requisite safety measures?
Here’s our perspective
Reports on 50 percent occupancy
Recently, reports have been doing round that theater owners will approach the government to reopen movie-watching and theatre activities by proposing a novel solution: Alternate seating or filling up 50 percent of the seats within the halls.
Is it possible to secure the investment with half occupancy?
The responsibility in this case will go both ways. Not just theatre owners but audiences will have to exercise necessary caution and maintain the protocol. Multiplexes will need to pay extra attention to sanitization and equip themselves to be COVID-ready. Whether it is infrared thermometers, sanitizers, regular cleaning and disinfection of AC and seats, the rules of the game will change.
It would also be a good idea to display advisory messages in public interest at the cinema halls.
Digital is no replacement for popcorn
It is not only where consumers watch movies but how that has undergone a significant transformation. With the emergence of OTT platforms and their production of original content, digital media has witnessed unprecedented growth in recent times.
This has also led to a demand for more, original content as people are fast exhausting the existing material available to them. But there is only so much binge-watching that one can do, right?
Movie going is an entire experience in itself. Right from the coordination with friends and family to dressing up and of course the food and beverages. There is much to look forward to and it has long been considered a great option for an evening out in India.
While digital is well and thriving, it can’t replace this social element of having fun. We expect people to start thronging the cinema halls as usual once normalcy is restored, even if it takes a couple of months more.
Another phenomenon that we have witnessed in countries where the lockdown has been lifted from China to New Zealand is the revenge shoppers. From 3am queues outside McDonalds to China recording a whopping $ 2.7 million in sales just at Hermes on the day of reopening, there are curious signs of a psychological comeback that people tend to make when they are finally free of quarantine and related restrictions.
The regulations of lockdown coupled with the forced austere life and the absence of good old retail therapy have led people to seek the old ‘normal’ with a vengeance.
Psychologically, this revenge-spending fever is likely to extend to movie-going and mall hopping.
So, will we see theatres bustling with audiences and a ton of Diwali and Eid releases? The more disciplined we are now, the shorter the sentence and the faster our road to recovery.