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Kerala Theatre Owners Await Government Aid, May Keep Theatres Shut For Longer

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Despite the Kerala government giving the official nod for theatres in the state to reopen from January 5, theatre owners may keep their establishments shut for longer. Theatre owners say they are still waiting for the state goverment to announce relief measures for the industry and for issues with producers to be amicably resolved.

After more than nine months of closure, cinema halls in Kerala were, on Friday, permitted by to reopen with 50 % seating capacity and other Covid-19 related safety norms from Jan 5 onwards. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan made the announcement.

Suresh Shenoy, the owner of Shenoys Theatre in Kochi tells Silverscreen India that he will open his theatre only on January 13,  ahead of Vijay’s film Master‘s release and not on the 5th. “Some decisions are yet to be taken and there’s a meeting on the 5th between all cine exhibitors, producers, and distributors. Based on that meeting, decisions will be taken,” says Shenoy.

MC Bobby, secretary, Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK), says other theatres are still undecided on reopening and what films to screen first.  “For theatres to open on Friday and for films to continue releasing smoothly, producers and distributors need to have a discussion and reach a conclusion. For this, we are holding an executive committee meeting on January 5 to discuss future plans. This will also be discussed during the executive committee meeting on Jan 5.”

The association had raised demands in a memorandum submitted to the government in November, seeking relief measures.

“During the meeting with the CM on November 19, we discussed a lot of issues, including waiving the Entertainment Tax and Fixed Electricity Charges for the time the theatres remained shut. Some theatres’ licenses may also have expired in these 10 months so we have asked the government to extend the date for renewal of licenses. The CM also agreed during the meeting that some of the issues raised in the memorandum need to be solved. However, the election code of conduct was in place at the time and the CM had said he will make a decision later. Right now, we are hoping the government comes up with a solution to all the issues we have raised,” he says.

Sumesh, owner of Maharani Theatre in Pala tells Silverscreen India that his theatre will not reopen on January 5 due to ongoing maintenance work and that he hopes to reopen before the release of Master.

Mukesh R.Mehta, who has produced Malayalam films Guppy and Adithya Varma among others, says he expects multiplexes in Kerala to reopen on January 5 but is doubtful whether single screens will also reopen.

“The Government has given the permission so maybe the multiplexes like PVR and Inox will open. But the single screen associations will take a call after the meeting. It is not an unrestricted opening so one can’t just ask to open theatres suddenly. The Government should have given at least 15 days time for theatre owners to prepare and producers to also decide whether they want to release a film during a non-festival time. Whatever old movies were there, that may come back. It’ll take a couple of days to figure out whether it is opening on the 5th or the 13th,” he tells Silverscreen India.

Post the Kerala Chief Minister’s announcement permitting theatres to reopen, makers of Mohanlal‘s film Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, one of the big-budget Malayalam releases that were stalled due to the Covid-19 related lockdown, announced that the film will release on March 26, 2021-one year post its initial scheduled release date. Other Malayalam films awaiting release include Mammootty‘s One, Fahadh Faasil‘s Malilk and Dulquer Salmaan‘s Kurup.

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