With COVID-19 cases in Delhi now under control, movie theatres and multiplexes in the national capital are all set to cautiously reopen and welcome customers back after months of closure due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Halls are being carefully sanitised and UV lights are being installed in several theatres.
According to JJ Verma, manager at the Delite Cinema Hall, snacks will not be allowed in the halls and only seal-packed eatables will be available for sale. Amid declining COVID-19 cases in the national capital, the Delhi government on Saturday issued orders allowing cinemas/theatres/multiplexes to reopen with 50 per cent capacity from 5 am on July 26.
Asked if he thinks customers will come back to watching movies in movie theatres after the increased popularity of OTT platforms, Verma said that many films released online would have done a lot better had they been released in a theatre. "OTT platforms are not a challenge for us. Many movies were released on platforms during the lockdown but they did not get a huge response from the audience. Films would have done better had they been released in cinemas halls," he said.
At the Liberty Cinema in Karol Bagh, however, they are unsure about how many people will turn up to watch movies. YN Singh, who handles the accounts department at Liberty Cinema in Karol Bagh said that a movie will not be played at the theatre unless it is a big one, as the cinema neither has a film or an agreement, and it is unlikely that people will come to watch.
"The Delhi government announced this yesterday. It will take time for us to open the cinemas as we neither have any film nor the agreement. We also have to arrange staff. We cannot open it till all the arrangements are done. How will it benefit us? Families are not coming to watch movies. Even if the cinemas will get open, no one will come to watch the film," he told ANI. Singh further said, "Till the time we don't get a big movie, we can't run it. We will open the cinemas depending on which new movie is coming. If we get a good movie then we will open it and then perhaps people will come to watch it. We are fully prepared to open the cinema."
He also emphasised that all of the government's COVID-19 guidelines will be followed when they open theatres. "We will follow the guidelines given by the government. We are not sure how many people are going to come to watch movies. It completely depends on the movie. Else the probability of people coming to watch movies is less," he said.
While talking to people on the streets and asking their opinion on how they look at cinemas opening with 50 per cent occupancy, one of the passersby named Jalaj said, "It's been more than a year since the lockdown has been imposed and people are stuck indoors. Now, whenever people are getting an opportunity they want to get fresh air from all the mental pressure they are getting by working from home. It looks like a good opportunity to get out of the house and meet friends and family. I see this as a nice subtle way to get back to a normal life." He further said that he wasn't sure if he would visit theatres or not as COVID cases in other states are going up and down.
"It is better to take precautions. If the cases reduce, I might catch up with my friends and watch movies," he said. Another passerby in Connaught Place, Abhijeet, opined that this was probably not a good idea as people now have a habit of using Netflix and Amazon Prime.
"I don't think it is a good idea because nowadays people have become habitual in using Netflix and Prime. People are comfortable in their houses. Now, as they have become habitual, it will be a new experience if they again start going and it's also hectic," he said.