Lucknow cinema halls open to tepid audience response, no new releases

Most Multiplexes in Lucknow remain shut due to lack of profitable forecasts and economical viability

With the graded unlock in order, cinema halls in Lucknow opened on Thursday, October 15 after a long hiatus of seven months due to the threat of spread of coronavirus. However, the frenzy of audience and movie buffs evaded this resumption. With conspicuously missing viewers and running of already released films, the halls remained empty while most continue to remain shut.

Not a full house for UP cinema halls

Uttar Pradesh has more than 300 single screens and 87 multiplexes with nine multiplexes and 10 single screens in Lucknow itself. However, blame the audience's paranoia, lack of interest in the re-run of old shows or the issuance of last-minute protocols by district management, the viewer response was drooped to a low point on Thursday. "The footfalls have been minimal and we ran the first show in the afternoon with a very low audience presence," said the owner of a newly constructed multiplex in Lucknow. He said that some viewers went back after they were asked to download the Arogya Setu App as per the Covid protocol.

The city administration circulated new guidelines and protocols in the SOP just hours before cinema halls and multiplexes reopened on Thursday; as a result, majority of the hall owners chose not to start functioning. The new guidelines make it mandatory for the theatres to install web cameras and inform the Covid control room if any Covid suspect is tracked through the oximeter. The theatre owners will be required to upload information immediately on the designated link. A multiplex manager said, "Within hours, we cannot install web cameras and make arrangements to send information through Google link. We already have thermal scanning and sanitizers at every entrance in the mall and also the theatre." The Lucknow District Magistrate who visited a multiplex for inspection asked the manager to note down the names and addresses of all viewers at the entrance. He also directed that cashless transaction should be done in the multiplex.

Meanwhile, Avinash Tripathi, a viewer who had reached a single screen theatre, returned after he found that only re-runs of old films were available. "Theatres should screen films that already have had an OTT release because not everyone has watched films on the digital platform. Who is going to watch re-runs of films that are, in any case, being shown on movie channels every week?" he added.

Lucknow Multiplexes remain shut

Multiplex owners who did not open up theatres on Thursday, said that they would rather wait for the new released to lure in the audience than resume the functions now. "As viewers are not coming and then there are no new films being released. It would not be economically viable to run the multiplexes in such a situation," said a multiplex manager.

Ashish Agarwal, president Uttar Pradesh cinema exhibitors' federation and managing director of Lucknow's Umrao Mall, said, "Initially, only two shows would be screened with the first show starting at 1.45 p.m. The second show will start from 5.45 p.m. onwards and will conclude at around 9 p.m. The time between the two shows would be utilized in sanitizing the movie hall."

Knock Knock

The 7-month long coronavirus lockdown has impacted the entertainment industry with its sharpest blow. With no new releases in the immediate pipeline, multiplexes in Capital Lucknow have taken an unanimous decision to remain closed despite district approval. With the forthcoming festive season, new films and shows shall also flood the market, giving a fair opening chance to multiplexes and cinema halls in the city as well as the state.

-With inputs from IANS

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