The move, experts say, will result in filmmakers postponing the release dates of their films again as Maharashtra is one of the biggest markets.
“While Covid-19 remains a big concern, it is now a question of lives versus livelihood. The timing of this decision couldn’t have been more unfortunate. It was only after five months of operations despite availability of big movies when big filmmakers had started announcing releases of their movies. Footfalls had increased in the theatres and there was a glimmer of hope, but now such stringent measures will derail the whole recovery of the sector,” said trade analyst Shaaminder Malik.
He added that some of the most awaited films like ‘Sooryavanshi’, ‘83’, ‘Radhe’ and ‘Thalaivi’ might get postponed again.
Last week, anticipating a lockdown or strict measures against the cinema halls, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) had written a letter to state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, pointing out that the lockdowns (if implemented) are going to negatively impact the cinema, retail and shopping industry.
“Such measures that curtail smooth operations will not only deter genuine movie-goers, who have slowly returned to cinemas, from visiting cinemas and malls, but also put into motion a downward spiralling effect on the cinema industry,” wrote Kamal Gianchandani, president, MAI.
He also highlighted that the cinema closure ordered by the Maharashtra government on March 13 last year, followed by closures in other states across the country, had already brought the industry to an unprecedented situation.
“With zero revenues in eight months (March 13th, 2020 till November 9th, 2020), and thereafter meagre revenues in the last five months, the cinema exhibition industry is now facing possible bankruptcies,” Gianchandani wrote in the letter.
As per trade sources, after opening of cinema halls with up to 50% capacity, most cinema theatres had clocked less than 3% occupancy till January.
In February and March, the occupancy had gone up to 12% for some of the players.
A senior executive at a large multiplex chain said that more states might follow Maharashtra. “The industry can not survive another lockdown,” he said.