Movie theatres across the country were shut down in March, following the lockdown imposed to control the spread of COVID-19. As part of Unlock-V guidelines, the Centre recently permitted to reopen movie theatres from 15 October. Despite having the government’s approval, not many exhibitors in Vizag are willing to reopen the cinema halls.
While the non-availability of new films seems to be one of the main reasons, the exhibitors in Vizag are also bothered about the lack of permission for the screening of films in Telangana. “Usually, filmmakers would like to release new movies in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana simultaneously. It is highly unlikely that they will give the exhibitors in Andhra Pradesh new content now,” said an exhibitor.
Adding to the woes, the accumulated power bills generated by the theatres during the lockdown has left the exhibitors reeling in a lurch. Earlier in June, personalities from the Telugu film industry, led by Chiranjeevi and Akkineni Nagarjuna, met Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. The actors requested Mr Reddy to waive off the power bills and property tax generated by the cinema halls during the lockdown. Assuring them that their request will be considered, the CM directed AP Information and Public Relations Minister, Perni Venkataramaiah to look into the matter. However, there has been no further announcement from the government in this regard.
While only a handful of cinema halls, including Jagadamba Theatre, are planning to reopen, most of the exhibitors in Vizag feel that screening movies after a few weeks would be a wiser choice. Speaking to Yo!, Ramnath Rokkam, Manager of Melody Theatre, said, “With no new movie screening, it would be difficult to draw audiences to the cinemas after the long shutdown. Added to that, the district administration informed us that we are allowed to screen the shows with only 50 percent occupancy. Considering all these factors, we are looking forward to reopening by this coming Diwali.” Treading the same path, Sangam and Sarat theatre is likely to reopen only when new films are ready. “We will not open until new films are released,” shared Prasad Reddy, Manager of Sarat theatre.
Earlier on Wednesday, Visakhapatnam Joint Collector, M Venugopal Reddy directed the management of various cinema theatres to implement all COVID-19 protocols in view of permission given by the government to open theatres from 15 October. The Joint Collector informed the theatre owners that management should not allow the public without masks. Adding that thermal screening should be made compulsory, he directed the theatre managements not to allow children below 10 years of age and senior citizens over 65 years inside the halls.