Theatres and multiplexes in Tamil Nadu opened their doors nearly after four months on August 23, Monday, as the Tamil Nadu state government announced relaxations in COVID-19 safety norms on August 21 and allowed theatres to operate at 50% capacity. In view of the second wave of COVID-19, the previous AIADMK government had announced closure of cinema halls from April 26, this year. September 9 saw the release of the late award-winning director SP Jananathanâ€™s Laabam starring Vijay Sethupathi and AL Vijayâ€™s biopic on erstwhile chief minister and AIADMK leader, J Jayalalithaa Thalaivii helmed by Kangana Ranaut, and theatre owners and managers are optimistic about getting back on track after over a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic.
â€śYesterday (September 10) was the first time we were at full occupancy within the 50% limit since we re-opened last week,â€ť said Surya Chidambaram, director of Kamala Theatre, Chennai. â€śThis response is a bit overwhelming, but weâ€™re still a little sceptical. With big films, the weekends usually go well. Itâ€™s only on Monday that weâ€™ll know what the situation is actually like. Our hope is that more films release in theatres, rather on OTT platforms,â€ť he added.
Chidambaram also says that Kamala Theatre was careful not to show any new releases in the same week they reopened giving people and themselves time to re-adjust. He adds that the process has been made easier with the release of Thalaivii and Laabam, given that both films star well-known actors.
Rajashekar, the assistant manager of Ambika Theatre, Madurai, says that the concern for them is more about the quality of the films than any hesitancy among people to return to theatres. â€śIf good films are released, the audience will definitely come,â€ť he says. So far, the films that have come out arenâ€™t good, he adds. â€śWeâ€™ve only managed about 20% occupancy within the government mandated 50%. F9: The Fast Saga drew a slightly larger crowd and we were able to fill about 30% of the seats. Only once big star actor films start releasing do I think weâ€™ll be able to have full theatres at 50% occupancy,â€ť says Rajashekar.
Chennaiâ€™s Rohini Theatreâ€™s owner, Nikilesh Surya, says, â€śThe last two weeks have been encouraging. The footfall has been better than the initial few weeks following the first lockdown [last year]. People are ready to come to theatres if offered good content. A couple of big star movies and no onset of a third wave should set the ball fully in motion for film exhibition.â€ť
Tirupur M Subramaniam, the owner of Sri Sakthi Cinemas, says that for them, the weeks following the reopening have been good and he expects this trend to continue.