The Karnataka government had allowed cinema halls and multiplexes to open with 50% capacity from July 19, as part of further relaxations in lockdown rules.

Photo of the INOX movie theatre in Garuda Mall that is shut TNM
news Lockdown Tuesday, July 20, 2021 - 11:57

Cinema-goers in Bengaluru will have to wait a little longer to go back to theatres to watch films. Even though theatres have been allowed to operate with 50 % capacity in Karnataka from July 19, amid relaxation in lockdown rules, many multiplexes and single-screen theatres in the city were deserted. While few theatres were locked, some had placards posted saying they are still not open to the public. The reason being a shortage of new movies to screen.

“Although the Karnataka government has now permitted the operation of cinema halls, we are still in a fix. Firstly, we’ll need at least three-four days to clean the auditoriums before we open them to the public. Additionally, no industries—Kannada or Telugu—have decided when they will release their films,” says  Sundar Raj, owner of Varjeshwari Theatre in Bengaluru’s Ullal. He further adds that many big producers are shying away from releasing their films in theatres as permission has only been given to operate for the next 15 days and with 50% capacity. “We doubt if anyone will risk releasing their films,” he adds.

The theatre owners and film exhibitors across the city expressed similar concerns, even as the Karnataka government on July 18 announced that cinema halls across the state could operate with 50% occupancy until August 2.

Speaking to TNM, DR Jayaraj, the president of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce says that they have no content to screen even if they open the theatres.

“The theatres will probably only be opened next week to the public. We have no information on which films the producers will release. The Telugu cinema producers are not keen on releasing their films either. The producers are demanding 100% occupancy before releasing the film,” Jayaraj says, adding that the government has to address all these issues before theatres can open properly.

However, KV Chandrashekhar, the president of Karnataka Film Exhibitors Association, says that the Telugu cinemas will be released in the next week, while Tamil film producers have decided to release their movies in the first week of August. “While we have received an update on when we can expect Tamil and Telugu cinemas, we have no idea about which Kannada films will be released. The Kannada film producers are all meeting today and only then we’ll know when we can open theatres to the public," says Chandrashekhar, who also owns Veeresh Theatre in the city.

Echoing Jayaraj and Sundar Raj, Chandrashekhar says that they will need at least one week to decide when to open cinema halls and another three to four days to clean the auditoriums before letting the public into theatres.

When asked why they are not screening Hollywood releases like Marvel’s Black Widow that was recently released, Chandrashekhar says, “Hollywood releases do not have a big market in southern India as compared to the rest of India. If they decide to open cinemas to the public in other parts, only then we can screen those films here [in the south]. Majorly, we focus on south Indian cinema like Kannada, Telugu and Tamil films. All the film industries in India have stopped production due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Hindi cinema industry, so there’s a dearth of content.” 

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