Big screens, Big losses

Business City Covid-19

Some cinema theatre staff revealed they are not even getting 10 bookings per show.

Kolkata: Movie theatre business in Kolkata has reduced to 50 per cent of what it used to be, despite them opening on October 15, 2020, say staff.          

Cinema hall managers believe that the fear of Covid-19 has prevented people from visiting them. Sameer Das, manager at the Indira Cinema, said, “Covid-19 is a deadly virus spreading everywhere, so people refrain from visiting movie theatres to avoid infection, although, we follow government-issued guidelines.”               

Theatre staff believe that some government guidelines are the reason for their low income. “The staggered show timings (in the Standard Operating Procedures issued by the government) have led to lesser shows per day,  reducing our income,” said Sayan Mitra, spokesperson for Bijoli Cinema Hall. “We reached a maximum of 10 bookings per show last month,” he added.

Ms. Batabyal, a resident of Kolkata, said that she refrained from visiting cinema halls after seeing her close ones suffer from Covid-19. Ms. Shah, another resident, said that movies of renowned celebrities are nowadays releasing on over-the –top (OTT) platforms. So, she doesn’t feel the need to go to a movie theatre.

Subhodip Saha, an Economics Professor in The Bhawanipur Gujarati Education Society School (ISC), said, “Seven months of lockdown had completely stagnated their business. It’s not going to be any better as the guidelines mention 50 percent of seating is to be reduced and only packaged food to be sold. Cinema halls often in incur expenses from the profits they earn from the food department, as mentioned in a live mint report. Even though Central and State governments are trying to limit the pricing, it’s difficult to be implemented.”

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had earlier issued guidelines for reopening of movie theatres. These included reducing the seating by 50 per cent and staggered show timings to avoid crowding and to curtail the spread of Covid-19. Social distancing of six feet is necessary. Also, movie theatres are not allowed to open in the containment zones.           

Some movie theatre staff believe that movies of people’s interest have not been released yet, leading to fewer bookings. Sameer Das said, “Movies of big bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan are not releasing, so people are not interested in booking tickets.”

Subhodip Saha said “I agree that movies of big actors are not released in theatres which is one of the reasons people don’t spend money to buy a ticket. The situations might get better when we have a vaccine for covid-19 or when movies of big bollywood stars release.”

However, some people continued to visit the cinema with precautions. Mr. Shaw said that he enjoys watching Bengali movies so he visits the cinema hall with proper precautions. He said he wears a mask, uses sanitizer frequently and maintains social distancing. “If people can visit restaurants and attend weddings, why not movie theatres?” he asked.

Several cinema halls like Menoka Cinema and Priya Cinema have shut down due to fewer bookings.


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