After a suicide, Multiplex Association of India (MAOI) requests for the reopening of cinemas

A day after an employee of one of Hyderabad's leading multiplexes died by suicide, the Multiplex Association of India (MAOI) wrote to the home and the I&B ministries — its fifth appeal in the six months of theatre shutdown — requesting for the reopening of cinemas.

The letter emphasises how the exhibition and distribution sectors across India have borne losses of Rs 1,500 crore every month since the shutters were downed on March 14, taking the six-month tally to Rs 9,000 crore. This includes the losses incurred by the dependent partners in the business.

The theatre shutdown was imposed on March 14.PIC/twitter

In a detailed statement, the MAOI recommended staggered movie timings, and monitoring of entry and exit points to enable physical distancing, besides the agreed-upon standard operational procedures (SOPs) that include staggered seating and checking patrons' temperatures. It also stated that theatres will no longer host trailer and music video launches, and other events, reserving the premises for movie screenings.

Even as buzz suggests that reopening of cinemas will be part of Unlock 5.0, Chennai-based industry tracker Ramesh Bala says it will take months to resuscitate the business. "With 90,000 cases daily, people won't feel safe to go to movie halls. This is why a film like Tenet hasn't fared as well as it should have. Once theatres open up, we'll have to count on big desi releases like Sooryavanshi and 83 for the audience to show up." He adds that the refreshment partners will struggle to stay afloat even if the footfalls witness an upward trend. "People don't have the kind of income to return to cinemas and splurge like they used to. Even if they begin operations in October, the recovery process can take place only post January 2021. At this stage, theatres need to be actively supported."

Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi is eyeing a Diwali  release

The shutdown entered its seventh month on Monday. Film and trade expert Girish Johar points out that the country has lost 15 per cent of its single screens in the interim. "Even if the government gives the green signal, where is the content? People won't risk their lives to watch old blockbusters. With Sooryavanshi slated for Diwali, we need to be up and running at least two weeks before that," he reasons.

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