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Multiplex Association writes to Maharashtra CM, says possible lockdown could hit cinemas

A second shutdown would result in the postponement of several Hindi movie releases.

MUMBAI: Maharashtra has been witnessing a drastic surge in coronavirus cases over the past few days, and several medical experts have suggested that the only possible way to curb the rising caseloads is by implementing a second lockdown. Amid looming uncertainty over a possible shutdown, the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) has written to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, saying that another lockdown, if implemented, could hit the film exhibition industry very badly. 

The MAI added that yet another halt on operations could also negatively affect the functioning of retail and shopping industries. 

"Such measures that curtail smooth operations will not only deter genuine movie-goers and shoppers, who have slowly returned to cinemas and shopping centers, from visiting cinemas and malls but also put into motion a downward spiraling effect on cinema industry and modern retail that could derail the recovery of these segments," the association stated.

In the letter, the MAI noted that the implementation of a second lockdown in the state will result in the postponement of several Hindi movie releases, which will in turn create an extremely hostile situation for cinemas across the nation. 

The MAI added that "second lockdown will be extremely detrimental and would lead to severe and irreversible consequences for the cinema exhibition sector." 

It was on 13 March 2020 that the Maharashtra government decided to close all cinema halls in the state due to the rising number of Coronavirus infections. The closure lasted until 9 November, and now, even after five months of opening, the industry has not stabilised due to the hesitance of people to enter movie halls. 

Further, the MAI pointed out that cinema halls are ensuring sufficient hygienic practices, and even being a closed setting, theatres are safer when compared to local trains, metro trains, and airlines. The letter also asserted that a lockdown on cinemas will be discriminating and discouraging. 

After months of remaining shuttered, cinemas reopened in October 2020 with a 50 per cent cap on seating and had to adhere to strict protocols issued by the government. Restrictions were further eased from 1 February 2021 and theatres were allowed to operate at 100 per cent capacity. However, footfalls have been low, and according to a Livemint report, hovering between seven to 30 per cent in north India. There are exceptions to this abysmal trend -- Tamil film Master ran to packed houses even after arriving on an OTT platform, while Telugu film Uppena has also done great business.

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