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What will theatres play when they reopen? Filmmakers and industry experts weigh in

Whichever states allow theatres to reopen from October 15, the question remains: What films will be screened? We talk to filmmakers and experts about the possible options, which range from regional films, to films that released earlier this year.

The big news finally came through on September 30, with the Central Government allowing theatres across India to open with 50 percent occupancy. The catch, however, is that the respective state governments will take a call if they want to go ahead or not. Mumbai, one of the biggest markets, has deferred the opening till October 31. Delhi is yet to give permission to its theatres.

In such a scenario, no new releases can be expected. What will the theatres, those permitted to open, screen? Also, whenever they do reopen, what would their content be to lure masses back to the big screen?

The recent drive-in screenings of Khaali Peeli going housefull in Gurugram prove that people, though being cautious about Covid 19, want to catch their favourite films outside their homes.

Producer Anand Pandit, whose film The Big Bull starring Abhishek Bachchan will release on an OTT platform, says, "For the audience, it will not be a matter of watching the film, it would just be to retreat, go out. They are anyway getting to watch films at home, however many they want. It's not about the film releasing, but going out with family and friends."

He adds that he's willing to give the films that he produced without any cost to the theatre owners to re release. "I produced a film called PM Narendra Modi, we offer all cinema halls to re run it, we will not charge anything from it. Also, with re releases, people who have not seen the film, they might come. Secondly, I think those small films, who didn't get theatres before, they will get it now. That's how momentum will rebuild," says Pandit.

Echoing the same sentiment as Pandit is Shibasish Sarkar, CEO, Reliance Entertainment. He says, "We will always be available if a discussion crops up for re releases of our films. We will be happy to share any of our big blockbusters which came recently, for running in theatres."

From a theatre owner's point of view, things are still uncertain right now. Manoj Desai, executive director of G7 Multiplex and Maratha Mandir cinema, says that he had already started planning what to do when initially the theatre re-opening announcement was made. "Firstly, the notification should come, that we can open from this date. These are all false hopes. I had a meeting with my executives for October 15, but then, the same night at 11pm Udhaav ji (Thackeray, Chief Minister of Maharashtra) said nothing till October 31. We will wait for a final date, and then start to think how to go about it," he admits.

We ask him what does he plan to screen, and Desai says, "We don't even know what rules would be there, yet. I am thinking of regional films, Bhojpuri and Gujarati, like Hellaro (2019), which I ran for 10 weeks. There won't be any new, since they are coming on television and OTT platforms already."

Trade analyst Joginder Tuteja says one shouldn't expect any major films to come out by any means. "Smaller films will release because of no competition. Gurgaon, Haryana, Punjab, even Chandigarh is a reasonable market now. I foresee Tanhaji- the Unsung Warrior, Baaghi 3, Angrezi Medium, Dil Bechara getting a release. They were popular on OTT platforms, and the money they get from theatres will be a bonus, no one will mind it," he says.

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