Single-screen theatres were struggling even before Covid appeared on the scene. As per the FICCI-EY report on India’s Media and Entertainment sector published in March, the revenue of single-screen theatres, down from 6,651 to 6,327 in numbers, fell from Rs 6,000 crore in 2018 to Rs 5,300 crore in 2019.
“The decline was fuelled by the continuing shutdown of single screens, primarily in the Hindi heartland, as films continued to be created for upper class/ multiplex audiences,” it noted. The subsequent lockdown has come as the climactic punch. With cinemas still shut, members of the film industry have taken to tweeting with hashtags like #SupportMovieTheatres #SaveCinemaSaveJobs.
Multiplexes aren’t faring any better. PVR Cinemas has terminated service contracts with the housekeeping and security agencies and reduced salaries of its 6,300 workforce. “It’s a tough situation. We have received no support, whether in the form of loans from banks, subsidies or help to take care of our staff salaries,” says Gautam Dutta, CEO, PVR Cinemas. “We don’t see why the exhibition sector is not being allowed to open when metros and restaurants have been.” Multiplexes, says Dutta, contribute 70 to 75 per cent to a film’s theatrical revenue. The cinema exhibition industry is estimated to have lost Rs 9,000 crore since March 14 when cinemas were ordered to close. Livelihoods of around 2 million people, in single screen and multiplexes combined, is at stake with a sizeable section employed contractually. The Cinema Owners and Exhibitors’ Association of India has suggested that nearly half of India’s single-screen theatres will have to shut shop if cinemas aren’t allowed to reopen soon. The closure projects a bleak outlook for the film industry where theatres accounted for Rs 11,500 crore of revenue in 2019, much higher than digital (Rs 2,210 crore) and TV satellite (Rs 1,900 crore) rights.
More worrying for theatre owners is the surge in the subscription of OTT platforms and producers forsaking theatrical releases for digital premieres. Moreover, now the dwindling number of single screens will make the big-screen experience even more of a luxury than it already is in the cities…