KOCHI: Today marks the 50th day since any cinema hall in Kerala has screened a movie. Theatres all over the state were closed down following the Covid-19 outbreak from March 11.
However, if you think that all these movie halls were shut down completely, you are wrong.
Since it is important for the theatre owners to keep the movie projectors and sound systems in good condition, they are playing trailers and available movie content once every day without an audience. If kept idle for more than 48 hours, the projection systems like 4K and Dolby Atmos sound system will become defunct gradually.
“For installing 4k projection system, the theatre owner has to spend Rs 70 lakh. Another Rs 40 to Rs 50 lakh is required for advanced sound systems like Dolby Atmos. In the earlier system of traditional carbon arc film projectors, they need to be maintained properly and should not be left idle. That is why we are running filmy content for a minimum of twenty minutes on every alternate day,” said Liberty Basheer, film producer and owner of Liberty Theatre Complex, Thalassery.
He said since the theatre owners require licence renewal to screen movies, the theatres are screening trailers, advertisements and available filmy contents to keep their equipment intact.
“Though theatres are not working, most of the owners are trying to pay at least 50 per cent salary to the staff. This amount may vary based on the owner-staff relationship. We cannot insist theatre owners should pay wages to the workers as there is no income,” said Film Exhibitors United Organisation of Kerala (FEUOK) secretary M C Bobby.
There are a total of 699 release stations in Kerala out of which 200 of them are installed with Dolby Atmos sound system. Nearly 120 theatres ae equipped with 4K projection system.
“The theatre owners are facing a deep crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Everyone is uncertain on the deadline to withdraw the regulations imposed as part of the lockdown. Even if the public transport system is reinstated, we don’t know when people will start visiting theatres again. We can hope at least by Onam we will be able to open the cinema halls,” Basheer said.
Meanwhile, nearly 48 films which were scheduled for the vacation will have to be postponed.
“We cannot think of holding discussions for reopening the theatres as there is no sign of the pandemic getting over yet,” Bobby added.