The pandemic might have taken its toll on the leisure and public recreation sector in Odisha, but as the state records an increased Covid-19 recovery rate, the government has allowed the reopening of multiplexes and cinema theatres from the first day of the new year.
According to a directive from the Naveen Patnaik government, issued for theatre owners and managers, cinema halls may reopen with 50 per cent capacity. The directive came after a nine-month-long shutdown left theatre owners without a source of revenue and in a state of bankruptcy in the absence of any business.
Nearly two months after protesting Jatra artists called for removal of Covid-19 restrictions from Jatra theatres, the government asked district collectors and municipal commissioners to take a call on the matter. Jatra artists who perform in open air theatres are hopeful that their business will soon resume after the government takes a decision in favour of reopening open air and Jatra theatres in different districts. These will, however, be taken only after an assessment of the number of active Covid cases and the risk of the virus spreading in different areas.
The Centre had allowed cinema halls to reopen from October last year with proper pandemic guidelines in place. Halls were directed to carry out proper screening of visitors and maintain one seat’s distance between viewers. The states could, however, take their own final calls on the matter and the Odisha government had directed theatre hall owners to keep the facilities closed. This decision was a precautionary measure taken by the government as cases were still rising.
The prolonged shutdown has choked up the inflow of revenue for cinema hall and multiplex owners. While they are excited about reopening the halls, concerns remain over whether their business can manage a full recovery any time soon.
While the Maharaja Cinema Hall manager in Bhubaneswar hailed the state government’s decision to allow cinema halls to reopen, he revealed that a drastic fall in the number of releases during the post-pandemic phase remained an alarming concern hall owners.
With most films choosing to go for an OTT release over the past year, 2021 might also see a greater number of films releasing on OTT platforms exclusively. This does not seem like a great trend for cinema halls that are direct competitors of OTT platforms in today’s age. With most people now used to watching content on OTT media, cinema hall owners anticipate a decrease in footfall even after the reopening.
As per the state government’s directives, social, political and sports events can now be organised with a total of 200 people in physical attendance but district authorities are allowed to take a final call on the number of people allowed to attend depending on the conditions in their respective areas. Wedding attendees stay restricted to 200 persons while funeral attendees can now be doubled from 50 to 100.
While B2B exhibitions with 50 percent capacity of an exhibition hall have been allowed since last month, B2C exhibitions will have the permission with 50 percent capacity of the hall starting from the new year. Either way, these developments mark the beginning of better days ahead for everyone concerned.