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This shutdown has become unbearable now, says exhibitor Manoj Desai

The executive director of the G7 multiplex and Maratha Mandir, who has been struggling to pay his staff, wants the government to take a decision on reopening cinemas soon.  

Keyur Seta

Movie theatres across India have been shut for more than five months now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nationwide lockdown, which was imposed in March, is slowly easing off in many parts of the country. But there is still no clarity on when movie theatres will reopen. 

Single-screen theatres have been the worst hit in this period and are going through a severe financial crunch. This has led Mumbai’s iconic movie theatre, Central Plaza to shut its operations this week. 

Manoj Desai, executive director of the G7 multiplex [better known as Gaiety Galaxy] and Maratha Mandir, told us that he was in the same boat and has been struggling to pay his staff their salaries during the lockdown. “We are facing a lot of trouble. We have somehow managed till now,” he said. 

“But it has now become too much to bear. The government should take a decision on it soon. They should give some notification for us to resume. They should make us aware of what percentage of seats should be empty,” he added.

Desai is not expecting a big turnout once theatres reopen, but he is fine with it. “I am sure not many people would turn up once our theatres start. But it will be good to at least resume. For how long can we keep our business shut? This year 2020 has created havoc in our lives,” he said. 

There were reports last month which suggested that the government may allow movie theatres to reopen in the near future with only 25-30% occupancy in order to maintain physical distancing. Some countries have adopted this measure. 

However, Desai, believes that such a measure would only worsen matters. “If they ask us to keep 70% seats empty, then it doesn’t make any sense because of the loss we would face. Then nobody will restart theatres.” 

On learning that the exhibitor was struggling to pay his staff, Akshay Kumar had offered him financial help in April. But he had turned down the offer politely. On being asked if he is considering the offer now, Desai said, “I have politely refused help from him. He is a very good friend and a very good human being. But if you take such a favour, you are required to pay it back later in some way.” 

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