Maharashtra cinemas to screen regional films if Bollywood isn't ready with releases

As per the recent guidelines from the central government, cinema halls and multiplexes across the country can reopen on October 15 with 50 per cent seating capacity. However, there is no announcement from the Maharashtra state government regarding when cinemas across the state will reopen.

Talking about a meeting held on Tuesday with the State Cultural Affairs Minister Amit Deshmukh, Cinema Owners and Exhibitors Association of India President Nitin Datar told IANS: "The meeting was cordial and we requested the minister to allow cinemas and multiplexes to reopen immediately or as soon as possible, as per central government guidelines. The minister gave us assurance that they will take a decision soon but no fixed date or hint was given as to when."

Highlighting the importance of the state from the angle of cinema business, Datar added: "Mumbai and Maharashtra form a major circuit from where the government as well as the film industry earns money. Business coming from Mumbai and Maharashtra is around 30 to 40 per cent of the total business of India. Unless the theatres reopen, distributors will not be keen to release films. So, the Maharashtra government should take an initiative for the film industry, otherwise the film industry will lose and exhibitors in the other states, which have permission, will find it difficult to get the new films."

However, new Hindi films will start releasing in about two to three weeks time, after theatres reopen. "Producers are right when they say they will not give films unless the theatres are opened. They are ready to give the films two to three weeks after theatres reopen," Datar informed.

What happens till new Bollywood films release? "We the theatre owners have decided that if we don't get new Hindi films for theatrical release at the moment, we will play regional movies in languages like Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, and Gujarati besides South films, and we will also repeat-run previously released Hindi or English films, whatever suits our budget. This way, we can at least start business. Then we will act as per the response of the audience," said Datar.

October is the month of festivals like Navaratri and Durga Puja, and theatre owners across Maharashtra do not want to miss out on festive season business, which continues till Diwali. On this, Datar said: "It would be great if cinemas can open in Mumbai before October end. There are guidelines from the central as well as the state government regarding the SOPs. We have to take care of that, then we will have to find out films available for release."

For now, theatre owners in the state await their governments's nod to open doors to the audience.

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