On December 2, the much-anticipated Mohanlal-starrer Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham is set to hit theatres. The film narrates the story of Kunjali Marakkar IV, the last of the Malayali naval leaders deployed by the Samoothiri of Calicut to fight against the Portuguese in the 16th century.
Speaking to Silverscreen India, Film Exhibitors United Organization of Kerala’s President Vijay Kumar said theatre owners are waiting for the government to ease Covid-19 related restrictions before opening bookings for the Priyadarshan directorial. “Currently, only 50% occupancy is allowed in cinemas and we are expecting permission to increase this. Theatres will begin pre-booking for Marakkar as soon as an update comes from the government regarding the seating capacity.”
As of Wednesday evening, only a handful of theatres in Kerala had opened bookings for Marakkar.
Earlier, the FEUOK general secretary had also told Silverscreen India that they were expecting permission to operate at 100% capacity by December.
Vijay Kumar said they have been getting a lot of enquiries for tickets and added that the fan shows for Marakkar are completely booked already. Theatres may start shows from 1 am or 3 am, he noted.
“Marakkar will get around 400 to 450 screens as there will be a few other films, like Suresh Gopi’s Kaaval, running in the theatres at the same time,” he said, adding that the theatre business is gradually returning to normalcy with the back-to-back release of Malayalam films.
Three more new Malayalam films were released in theatres on November 19: Aaha, starring Indrajith Sukumaran, Janeman, featuring Basil Joseph, Lal, Arjun Ashokan and Balu Varghese, and Ellam Sheriyakum, starring Asif Ali and Rajisha Vijayan.
According to FEUOK, all three films are faring well and weekend shows were fully booked. Vijay Kumar said, “Of the new releases, Janeman has been attracting a large audience. The film released in about 70 screens in Kerala and all shows were completely booked for the weekend.” On the other hand, the sports drama Aaha released in nearly 100 theatres. The FEUOK president also noted that Ellam Sheriyakum found favour with the family audience.
As these films entered their second week, screens for Janeman have been increased to 150.
“Kurup is continuing to attract audiences to the theatres,” Vijay Kumar added. “Next, we are anticipating the release of Suresh Gopi-starrer Kaaval on November 25. It is a big film and has the potential to bring in a good number of people.”
Meanwhile, Sumesh & Ramesh, the Malayalam film starring actors Sreenath Bhasi and Balu Varghese, which was set to release in theatres on November 26, has been postponed due to insufficient screen allotment.
Kerala theatres were shut down for around 10 months in 2020 due to Covid-19. They reopened on January 13, 2021 with the Tamil film Master, starring Vijay. But, by April 2021, in the wake of the second wave of the pandemic, theatres in the state were forced to shut down again. Films like Rajisha Vijayan-starter Kho Kho and Manju Warrier‘s Chathu Mukham were withdrawn from theatres in April. Since then, theatres remained closed until October.
When the Kerala state government allowed the reopening of theatres on October 25, it only permitted them to do so with 50% occupancy. The order also mandated that all staff and audience at the theatres should have taken both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. Later, in the first week of November, the government relaxed the restrictions to permit individuals who had taken at least one dose of vaccine in theatres.
Earlier this month, the Kerala government announced that it would waive the entertainment tax levied on movie tickets from April 1 to December 31, this year. And along with that, the government also waived 50% of the electricity charges and provided an extention of licenses till December.
Even as exhibitors are anticipating permission for increased seating capacity, on Tuesday, Kerala recorded 4972 fresh Covid-19 cases. As many as 4,18,79,768 people have been vaccinated in the state as of November 21.
Meanwhile, in a recent development, the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Public Health issued a circular stating that theatres and other public places in the state can only be occupied by vaccinated people.
In Maharashtra, on the other hand, theatres reopened on October 22 with 50% capacity but were prohibited from serving food and beverage in the screening area. However, the state’s SOP did not specify any vaccine mandate for the audience.