Most cinema halls and multiplexes in Andhra Pradesh remained shut on Thursday citing costs and other reasons, even though they are allowed to open under Unlock 5.0. One multiplex screen, INOX Varun Beach, belonging to the INOX chain, opened in Visakhapatnam, which symbolically played an old movie, "Bhisma". A visit to the AVG multiplex in Bhimavaram showed the box office shuttered.
"It is up to the cinema halls to decide. The government of India has allowed theatres to open with certain conditions. It is up to them whether to open," Information and Public Relations Commissioner Thumma Vijaya Kumar Reddy told IANS.
Though most theatres did not open, leading multiplex chain PVR sampled reopening on Thursday by having their employees as the audience at some of its screens across the country.
"We are calling the coming week as an opening week. A week of evangelism where we are expecting champions who are already confident to travel out and take the risk to come to the theatres," said a PVR spokesperson.
She said the multiplex chain will not hike ticket prices even though it has to suffer loss at only 50 per cent occupancy.
"Everyone is suffering, this year is a period to suffer. Everyone knows it," she added.
According to PVR's movie calendar for the next two months, it features some movies as forthcoming attractions, including some old Hollywood flicks.
Under the regional cinema category, the multiplex chain listed forthcoming Telugu movies such as 'Solo Bratuke So Better', 'Love Story' and 'Vakeel Saab' as the forthcoming attractions without a date.
"Currently, the focus is on building consumer confidence and following the guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The screening pipeline looks promising and we are working very hard to bring the most exciting content to our patrons in the following weeks," said PVR Cinemas chief executive Gautam Dutta.
PVR operates screens in Guntur and Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh.
One of the main reasons being cited by the exhibitors for not reopening is the high maintenance costs to run a theatre.
Representatives of the Andhra Pradesh Film Exhibitors Association requested the government to waive the power charges incurred by the theatres during the lockdown, to which the Chief Minister has reportedly agreed.
According to estimates, one theatre's power bill ranges around Rs 4 lakh per month and as many as 500 theatres could not pay power bills in the past six months, raising the power dues to above Rs 10 crore.
Likewise, there are also not many big movies waiting to be screened in the theatres as there were no film shootings for a long time due to the Covid-induced lockdown.
A few movies featuring big stars are expected to release in January.
Citing these reasons and highlighting costs, the cinema halls did not open in the southern state.
Meanwhile, a theatre employee in Rayalaseema region of the state differed with the reasons put forth by the exhibitors.
"One of the main reasons why the theatre owners are not opening is because operating them at just 50 per cent capacity is not a very profitable proposition for them," the employee told.
According to the employee, the move business in the state is driven by some 4-5 big Telugu film industry families who are ruling the business as they have allegedly made it their fiefdom.
"They decide which theatre will receive the password to screen the movie and which theatre will not while sitting in Hyderabad. These filmy families are also the reason why multiplexes are not expanding in Andhra Pradesh," said the employee.
Unlike single screen independent theatres, there is no room for multiplexes to manipulate ticket sales as they clearly pay taxes for each ticket sold, the employee said.