The Multiplex Association of India (MAI) on Thursday urged the central government to allow operation of cinema houses in non-containment zones in the country. The country went into lockdown from March 25 to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic. The government has started unlocking in phase-wise manner from June with opening up of domestic travel, offices, markets, shopping complexes, etc in containment zones.
Amid rising COVID-19 cases in the country under the government's Unlock 2.0 guidelines, cinema chains have not been given permission to operate. Addressing the same, the MAI said they feel dismayed that cinemas and multiplexes continue to remain in the list of prohibited activities.
The association said they find the move demotivating and disheartening as they believe cinemas and multiplexes can become an example of how social distancing guidelines and crowd control can be exercised in a safe and planned manner. As compared to the unorganised retail and shops that have been opened up, multiplexes and cinema are part of the organised sector, playing hosts to 'revenue paying' customers only and hence, in a better position to limit crowds unlike marketplaces and deploy all the mechanisms and guidelines for crowd control and social distancing," MAI said in a statement.
According to the association, the multiplex industry in India employs over 2,00,000 people who are the backbone of the Indian film industry as they account nearly 60 per cent of revenues of film business. "The livelihoods of more than a million people right from the spot boys to makeup artists, musicians, designers, technicians and engineers to cinema employees to directors and actors hinges on the survival of Indian cinema. The lockdown has literally brought the entire industry to a standstill with losses mounting every passing day.
"An early decision to allow cinemas to open up will only help the mobilisation of resources in the film industry's ecosystem and would lead to gradual resurrection," read the statement. The MAI said the entertainment industry is undergoing challenging times and they require support from the government to bounce back.
Even after opening cinema houses, it will take another three to six months before things return to normal, they said. "These are real challenges that the industry will have to overcome and we believe together, with the support of the government, we will be able to overcome them."
Citing example of France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Austria, Hong Kong, UAE, US, Belgium and Malaysia, where multiplexes have been allowed to operate, MAI said with implementation of safety protocols, these countries have received a warm response by audiences.
"More than 20 major cinema markets around the world have started operating. MAI is of the firm belief that there must be a start and the unlocking of cinemas in non-containment zones across India should be done post haste there must be a beginning and an opportunity must be given to us, just like some of the other sectors," the association said.