Like any other business, the movie making and theatre going experience has been impacted massively due to the Covid-19 crisis. Due the lockdown, while multiplexes certainly have to pay rent for the premises they’re running in such as malls or commercial complexes, the single screen theatres too, are waiting for normalcy to resume.
Trade expert Atul Mohan tells us that the single screens are at risk because they haven’t had any revenue coming in. “They’re dependent on a good film, if one works well, their next one-two weeks go by easy. They’re able to pay salaries and bills if even one film works in a month,” he says, adding that next, they’ve to pay distributors and producers money to get films.
“Say if they pay two-three lakh rupees for one film, they need to make at least five lakhs in business, which doesn’t happen usually. They’re able to make only around two lakhs per week,” he explains.
USE THEATRES FOR OTHER PURPOSES
Liberty cinema, located in Karol Bagh, has been running for more than five decades now. Owner Rajan Gupta tells us that though the financial situation is currently under control, the uncertainty is adding to the stress of no business for the past one-and-a-half months now.
“We are actually clueless,” he confesses, “Apart from measures like temperature check we might have to take in future, we’re dependent on the comfort of the customers, when they’ll feel comfortable going to a public place. Then the person who makes a film wouldn’t want to release if there’s not enough comfort with the audience. It’s a vicious cycle. If this becomes a long thing, the government should allow us to use our properties for something else which is acceptable, so we are able to survive. Without any physical changes, like as a grocery store. There are also manufacturers who are unable to send their things abroad, the cinema could be the place for selling it, thus helping the industry.”
Currently, they’re being able to pay their staff, and things are on track. Gupta adds, “Personally, I have no loans or rents. Over the years, I’ve found that when you think positive of your staff, they think positive of you. They understand the problems we’re facing, and there’s no single cent coming into the business.”
MAINTENANCE WORK GOES ON
Another popular single screen cinema in Delhi, Delite, has started planning for the future. Manager Rajkumar Malhotra informs us that as of now, they’re being able to sustain their staff only because it’s just been close to two months.
“When the lockdown started, the first thing we did was getting work like dry cleaning, renovation done. We expected it to last 10-15 days, not months. I don’t think films will start releasing anytime soon,” he tells us.
Emphasising on how things are manageable for them financially, he further says their staff has been paid their full salary. “We even have a maintenance staff stationed at the theatre. We’ve made arrangement for their food too there itself,” Malhotra says.
Gupta says that the biggest help would be if there was some relief in the electricity bills they get. “As far as maintenance cost is concerned, 50% of our electricity bills are made up of fixed costs, which they should not be charging. We’re actually also not able to access our staff, we’ve transferred some funds to them. Just because we’re unable to operate the office, they shouldn’t be without cash. There’s also a view that 75% of their salaries due should be paid by Employees State Insurance, whether government admits or not, it’s a legal point that can’t be taken up at this stage,” he says, adding this pandemic is as “good as falling sick”.
Film distributor Joginder Mahajan, also the general secretary of the Motion Pictures Association in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, adds the point about property tax single screens have to pay. “It’s approximately Rs 50,000 per month. Then there’s a minimum electricity bill, and the permanent staff they have to pay. 20 percent revenue is the distributor’s share. Single screens ka survival mushkil ho gaya hai.”